According to the African Space Industry Report 2022 Edition, African nations allocated a total of USD 534.9 million for operating their respective space programmes in 2022. In addition, the African space economy in 2021 was valued at USD 19.49 billion and is projected to grow by 16.16% to USD 22.64 billion by 2026. With such growth potential, leaders in space exploration and innovation, such as the United States of America, have a unique opportunity to extend the capability of their diplomatic, security, trade and commercial relations with Africa to include lasting and intentional space cooperation. The US-Africa Space Forum was held on 13th December 2022 on the sideline of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC, United States. The event’s vision was to leverage outer space to meet shared goals for the US-Africa relationship here on Earth, featuring broader panel discussions on the use of space to support sustainable development goals, capacity building and the role of the private sector in supporting the US-Africa partnership.
The forum featured keynote speeches from Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Paul Biya, President of Cameroon; Prof Isa Pantami, the Nigerian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and Senator Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator. The key highlight of the summit was the signing of the NASA Artemis Accord by Nigeria and Rwanda. The first panel focused on the use of space to support sustainable development goals and capacity development, moderated by Tacoma Jones of USAID featuring Zolana Joao of Angola Space Program, Tidiane Ouattara of the African Union Commission, Peter Martinez of Secure World Foundation and Timiebi Aganaba of Arizona State University while the second panel on the role of the private sector in supporting US-Africa partnership was moderated by US Commerce Department Deputy Secretary Don Graves featuring Isa Pantami of Nigeria Ministry of Communications, Billy Nolen of FAA, Amy Keating of Planet Labs and Minoo Rathnasabapathy of MIT.
According to the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, “Rwanda could not be more pleased to participate in this accord. Space technologies are increasingly becoming a critical tool for sustainable development, which is why Rwanda Space Agency was established two years ago to establish a space research and development centre. As we shoot for the stars, let us ensure that exploration of outer space benefits all of mankind for generations to come.”
Read: US-Africa Space Forum: Focal Points for Consideration
During his speech, the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, said, “I have personally observed that Africa is a great place to deploy and use new communication and information technologies, and this type of technology depends on putting new satellites into orbit. They are also fundamental in industries critical for economic development. This is why I think heading to space and conquering space is important and a necessity for us. This is why partnering with countries that have already made progress in this area is critical, and this is why I am happy we can discuss this here today. The United States is an industry leader, and I think technology transfer towards African countries needs to continue to enhance access to space.
We all have something at stake. If we want to fight climate change on the continent, we need to be able to access satellite data, for example. How can we embark on sustainable and urban planning if we don’t have access to the necessary technologies? How will it be possible to effectively comeback terrorism if we don’t have ways of monitoring their actions and movement? This is why space corporation is imperative. There’s a call for international solidarity to help the continent rise to space-related challenges. My country believes outer space should serve noble and lofty goals, and Cameroon is in favour of using space to benefit current and future generations and using it for peaceful purposes”.
According to US Assistant Secretary Medina, “As we enter this new era in space development, it’s important to remember the tangible benefits that space partnership can deliver for our citizens… and that African nations are not just recipients of those benefits, but active participants and partners in the exploration and use of space. As we focus this week on further strengthening the 21st-century U.S.-Africa partnership, space can and will play a key role… with implications for our scientific, environmental, and economic cooperation. For all those reasons and more, today is a celebratory occasion. We are delighted to welcome Nigeria and Rwanda as the first African nations to sign the Artemis Accords”.
As Africa continues to grow into its potential as a space entity and engages in global participation in space, creating long-term space partnerships that recognise the robust growth of the African commercial space sector and focus on projects implemented to guarantee continuity and sustainability is imperative to the development of a solid and sustainable US-Africa space partnership. Africa’s digital transformation plan is closely linked to space, and we are looking and interested in how we can work with African countries as partners, said Don Graves of the US Commerce Department.
The summit is expected to spark new partnerships among US and African institutions in space. In his speech, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said, “I foresee a day when the headlines speak of joint U.S.-African partnerships to expand suborbital commercial space transportation in the form of crewed spaceplanes over both of our continents. The FAA stands ready to work with African nations to develop launch and reentry regulations, advise on the building and sustaining of spaceports, and on the expansion of GPS and Global Navigation Satellite Systems for safer and more efficient air navigation. By establishing a common approach to regulations, and compatible forms of technology and procedures, we can eliminate duplication of work between our governments and foster an environment of growth for the global”.
We look forward to welcoming other African countries to the Artemis Accord, said Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, in his remark.
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