The Malawi Space Conference 2023, held from the 18th to the 20th of October at the Bing International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe, featured several high-level discussions highlighting the experiences and uptake of space innovation, technologies, and applications among different stakeholders in Malawi.
Furthermore, the conference, themed “Space Applications for Sustainable Development,” provided a unique opportunity for stakeholders to unite, enabling leaders in government, academia, the commercial sector, and investors to establish new business connections and relationships to advance the country’s space agenda.
Following the incredible precedent set on the opening day, the concluding days comprised high-level segments of keynote speeches, interactive sessions, panel discussions, and unique networking opportunities.
Check here to read an excerpt from the conference's first day.
The event’s second day started with a keynote address by Jessie Ndaba, CEO and Co-Founder of Astrofrica, focusing on Earth observation satellite human capital development and commercialisation.
Jessie’s insightful presentation shed light on the vital role that Earth observation satellites play in various sectors, from agriculture and environmental monitoring to disaster management and urban planning. She emphasised the significance of nurturing and advancing the human resources necessary to drive innovation and progress in this field.
Furthermore, Ndaba discussed the commercialisation of Earth observation satellites, discussing the opportunities and challenges of turning these advanced technologies into profitable ventures. Her address highlighted the potential for businesses and entrepreneurs in Malawi to leverage data from these satellites for various applications, including precision agriculture, climate analysis, and smart city development.
Following her address, the stage was set for two enlightening presentations on space application projects. First up was Phila Sibandza, a senior lecturer from the Department of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing at the University of Fort Hare. Dr Dimane Mpoeleng, a senior lecturer at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology, soon followed him.
These presentations delved into space applications, offering compelling case studies showcasing the transformative power of space-based technologies in tackling various pressing challenges. Phila’s presentation was a testament to how space technologies have become invaluable assets in disaster management and flood monitoring in South Africa.
On the other hand, Dr Dimane’s presentation illuminated the practical use cases derived from previous satellite projects. These cases resonated particularly strongly with Botswana’s sustainable development and climate change monitoring theme, vividly showing how similar space-based solutions can drive positive change in Malawi.
Another address by Chisomo Daka, the founder, CEO and CTO of Daka Space Technologies and Yusuf Chimole, CEO of Rydberg Starck Limited, immediately followed this panel. Both speakers discussed their company’s service offering and integral role in bolstering Malawi’s burgeoning space ecosystem.
Mr Chisomo Daka eloquently articulated his company’s primary focus, which revolves around designing, developing, testing, deploying, and efficiently managing a constellation of Daka CubeSats. He says, “These CubeSats are characterised by their ease of production, cost-effectiveness, reliability, and scalability, and are poised to revolutionise the space domain.” Mr Daka emphasised Daka Space Technologies’ commitment to cultivating the essential human resources required to spearhead future space initiatives and underscored the company’s dedication to nurturing a self-sustaining space sector in Malawi.
Conversely, Mr. Yusuf Chimole delved into the core mission of Rydberg Starck Limited, which encompasses a multifaceted approach to technological advancement. This includes their pivotal roles in hardware and software engineering, digital fabrication, and creating innovative digital solutions tailored specifically to Malawian people. The company’s endeavours are set to contribute significantly to the modernisation of various sectors in Malawi, harnessing cutting-edge technology to drive progress and enhance the lives of its citizens.
The second day ended grandly as a thought-provoking panel discussion took centre stage. The theme, “Harnessing the Potential of Space Applications for Sustainable Development: Exploring Space Projects, Policies, and Strategic Focus Areas,” was the theme for this engaging dialogue.
The panel, moderated by Dr. Chomora Mikeka, featured speakers, including Thandikile Chisala Mbvundula, Temidayo William Makwinja, Jessie Ndaba, Dimane Mpoeleng, and Chatonda Mtika, who joined virtually. Together, the experts weaved a rich tapestry of insights, shedding light on the dynamic landscape of space applications for sustainable development. Their collective insights and experiences provided a roadmap for space exploration’s exciting possibilities and potential to drive positive change in Malawi and Africa.
The event’s closing day commenced with an inspiring keynote address delivered by Humbulani Mudau, CEO of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). His presentation expounded on the numerous benefits that space exploration and developing a sustainable space programme can offer Malawi and the world.
Moreover, Mr Mudau’s presentation provided a comprehensive overview of the intricate processes required to lay the foundation for a robust space program. This encompasses the engineering and scientific expertise needed to propel spacecraft beyond our planet’s confines and the strategic planning, investment, and resource allocation essential for long-term success. The fusion of these elements will ultimately steer South Africa towards a prosperous cosmic endeavour.
Another keynote speaker took to the stage to discuss the future of the African space industry. In his presentation, Temidayo Oniosun, the MD of Space in Africa, discussed the current landscape, challenges, opportunities and growth prospects in several thematic areas of the African space ecosystem.
In his presentation, Mr Oniosun highlighted the challenges confronting the African space industry. These include funding constraints, regulatory hurdles, and technological limitations. His examination served as a sobering reminder of the work for Africa (and Africans) to fully benefit from the space sector’s illimitable potential. Furthermore, Mr Oniosun noted the numerous opportunities that lie in wait. The African space industry, he asserted, holds great promise for economic growth, technological advancement, and scientific exploration. From utilising satellite technology for various applications to the strategic advantages of engaging in space exploration, Mr Oniosun presented a compelling vision of the opportunities that exist for Africa to tap into.
Thandi Chisala Mbvundula, the Malawi Space Agency Taskforce Chairperson, delivered the concluding presentation for the Malawi Space Conference 2023. Her presentation delved into the intricate workings of the process involved in establishing the Malawi Space Agency.
Ms Mbvundula provided insights into the current stage of this establishment process, offering a comprehensive overview of the substantial progress achieved thus far. She highlighted that following the inaugural Malawi Space Conference hosted by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) in 2022, the government expressed a renewed commitment to harnessing space resources for the advancement of both social and economic facets of the nation.
In her presentation, Ms. Mbvundula also shed light on the significant tasks undertaken by the task force. These tasks encompass the formulation of a preliminary space policy tailored to the specific needs of Malawi. Furthermore, they are actively crafting essential legislation that will pave the way for the formal establishment of the Malawi Space Agency.
She says, “This regulatory framework is pivotal in ensuring that the nation’s space programme aligns with its objectives and operates effectively. In addition to policy and legislation, the task force will iron out the details regarding a comprehensive roadmap outlining activities essential for successfully implementing Malawi’s aspirations in space exploration and utilisation. These activities are strategically designed to steer the nation towards its overarching goals in space development, making the entire process a cohesive and well-thought-out endeavour.”
A truly fitting conclusion to the conference came from a closing ceremony presided over by a representative from the Office of the Director General of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA).
As the event drew to a close, attendees departed with a heightened comprehension of the numerous opportunities within the African space industry, specifically focusing on how these prospects relate to Malawi’s unique context. Moreover, this gathering instilled a renewed commitment among the participants to collaborate and propel innovation and progress within Malawi’s growing space endeavours. The closing ceremony served as a conclusion and a springboard for the future, inspiring individuals to join forces and collectively drive the Malawian space industry towards unprecedented heights.
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