The Egyptian Space Agency is set to launch a pan-African satellite project dubbed the African Development Satellite Initiative (AfDev-Sat) on Wednesday during the initiative’s first coordination meeting with heads of agencies from seven African countries.
The first coordination meeting is a two-day event slated for 27-28 November 2019 in Cairo. Participants at the meeting will take a tour of the Egyptian space city, laboratories and ground station.
“We invited heads of agencies of seven African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Morocco and Botswana) to discuss how to cooperate mutually to advocate the level of knowledge and capabilities in the space industry and how African countries may have non-dependency for building its own space systems,” an official of the Egyptian Space Agency told Space in Africa.
AfDev-Sat was first announced by Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Dr Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, at the Africa Space Forum on the sidelines of the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) held in Yokohama, Japan on 28 August 2019.
The project was initiated in the light of the integration of African countries in the field of space – with Egypt set to host the African Space Agency having won the bid in February 2019. Egypt is also readying its space capability to serve as a regional space power in the Middle East and Africa.
With the motto “Made in Africa for Africa”, the goal of the initiative is to create a sustainable collaboration platform within African countries in the field of space technology and applications, Dr Ghaffar said during his presentation at TICAD7.
The scope of the initiative is not clear yet, as the Egyptian Space Agency is still consulting with potential partners, hence the first coordination meeting in Cairo on Wednesday.
However, going by the Minister’s presentation at TICAD7, the initiative will focus on capacity building in Earth observation and development of remote sensing systems such as satellites and ground facilities.
The initiative plans to “collaboratively develop space-based remote sensing system for Earth observation and capacity building,” Dr Ghaffar said. The project also aims to “build infrastructure in the participating countries such as ground station, and laboratories as well as to promote a level of knowledge and improve human capacity.”
The agency has already identified the monitoring of emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming and their impact on the African continent as one of the projects to be undertaken by the initiative. Member institutions will collaboratively develop a space system to address this challenge while contributing from their level of capability.
Dr Ghaffar remarks that AfDev-Sat will address domestic, regional and continental strategic needs including the African Space Policy and Strategy, African Space Agency, Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa-STISA 2024, Africa Union Agenda 2063.
Similarly, Ghana’s All Nations University is hosting a coordination meeting on the sidelines of the two-day Space Science and Satellite Technology Applications (SSSTA) in conjunction with invited African and foreign institutions to discuss the possibilities of developing a pan-African satellite constellation.
Other multilateral space cooperation initiatives that exist in Africa include the African Resource Management Constellation (ARMC) operated by Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa which aims to create a shared and affordable EO satellite data to support environmental and resource management in Africa.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.