Excerpts from the First Day of the Rwanda Space Week Conference

Attendees at the Rwanda Space Week Conference

To commemorate World Space Week from October 4th to October 10th, 2023, the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) has kickstarted its inaugural Rwanda Space Week Conference (on October 9th and 10th) at the Kigali Convention Centre. This conference culminates a two-week nationwide campaign to educate and raise awareness about the RSA’s vision, mission, services, products, and aspirations.

The two-day event was designed to honour significant milestones in space history and celebrate innovations within the space sector. It brings together government officials, policymakers, industry leaders, young innovators, students, space technology practitioners, and potential partners to celebrate the progress of space technologies for social and economic advancement. The campaign and national conference are guided by the World Space Week theme, “Space and Entrepreneurship.”

Cross section of attendees at the conference

During his opening speech, Col Francis Ngabo mentioned that the programme commenced with a two-week nationwide campaign aimed at raising awareness about the mission of the Rwanda Space Agency. He highlighted that analyses have demonstrated that space services can directly support 42% of the Sustainable Development Goals, underscoring the vast potential of space technology across various sectors. This recognition has spurred collaborative efforts between the government, the private sector, and politicians, all geared towards nurturing a thriving space industry in Rwanda.

Col Francis Ngabo, CEO of RSA, delivering his opening remarks

Col Ngabo further emphasised the growth of space entrepreneurship, which offers opportunities for young African entrepreneurs within the global space industry. Initiatives to establish the necessary infrastructure for space investment are in progress, with experts sharing their insights during a two-day program. Col Ngabo stressed the importance of learning from past experiences and encouraged collective endeavours to unlock the full potential of space technology.

An opening speech by the Minister of ICT and Innovation, H.E. Ms Paula Ingabire, immediately followed Col Francis’ opening remark. She emphasised that the 2023 World Space Week aligns well with Rwanda’s policies to boost private sector productivity and foster entrepreneurial capabilities. The government’s investments in ICT and enabling technologies support various stages of industrialisation, and we consistently strive to align our development agenda with global trends and competitiveness.

Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation, H.E. Ms Paula Ingabire, giving her opening speech

The Minister pointed out that the last five years since the establishment of the Rwanda Space Agency reflect the government’s commitment to positioning the country at the forefront of space technologies and applications. She noted, “While the launch of this agency may have initially sparked curiosity, it’s now evident that space technologies are revolutionising various sectors, from agriculture and healthcare to communication, transportation, education, and more”

Ms Ingabire also commented, “World Space Week is both a celebration and a call to action. We invite scientists, engineers, and visionaries to join us in harnessing the power of satellite technology across various sectors, including agriculture, environmental monitoring, and instrumentation. Partnerships are critical in leveraging the advantages of the space industry, and together, we can advance space capabilities and technology. I am excited about the opportunities that space technology brings to our country. It has the potential to create high-value jobs, drive innovation, and lead us toward a knowledge-based economy. I look forward to participating in the upcoming sessions and collaborating with experts to build a thriving space industry that will elevate our continent.'”

The opening remarks were followed by a presentation by Levin Born’s speech on “How Satellites Keep Us Connected.” In his presentation, Mr. Levin Born emphasised the pivotal role of satellites in modern society. He discussed how satellites enable global communication, connect people worldwide, foster international collaboration, and support various industries, from telecommunications to disaster management. By highlighting the indispensable nature of satellites, Levin Born underscored how these technological marvels contribute to the advancement and connectivity of nations, making them an integral component of our daily lives.

Jean Pierre Gatera, the Managing Director of ESRI Rwanda Ltd, delivered the next presentation. He focused on practical use cases of space technologies. During his presentation, Jean highlighted the transformative power of space technology in various fields. He delved into how satellite data and spatial technology have supported Rwanda’s development efforts, including agriculture, urban planning, disaster management, and environmental conservation. Through real-world examples and case studies, he emphasised how space technology is pivotal in providing innovative solutions to societal challenges and advancing the nation’s progress.”

Jean Pierre Gatera, the Managing Director of ESRI Rwanda Ltd, delivering his keynote speech

Jean’s speech was enlightening, exploring how space technology drives positive change in Rwanda and the potential to do more. His discussion of tangible use cases not only demonstrated the potential of these technologies but also inspired the audience to explore new avenues for harnessing the capabilities of space technology for further advancements in the country.

The keynote addresses were followed by a panel discussion on “Space Technology for Transformation.” The panel, moderated by Joseph Abakunda, CSO, RSA, included panellists Alex Fortescue, Maxar’s Sales Manager in Africa; Gerald Yegon, the Regional Sales Lead in Africa at Planet; and Sohail Elabd, the Director of International Strategies at ESRI.

Speakers participating in the panel discussion

Alex’s comment revolved around the transformative power of space technology, mainly EO services and solutions and its profound impact on various African sectors. He highlighted how cutting-edge space technology solutions have the potential to revolutionise agriculture, environmental monitoring, infrastructure development, and disaster management across the continent. Fortescue emphasised the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors to harness these advancements for sustainable development and economic growth in Africa.

Gerald Yegon also contributed to discussing space technology’s transformative potential. Her contributions focused on the role of Earth observation satellites in providing valuable data for addressing pressing challenges in Africa, such as climate change adaptation, resource management, and urban planning. Gerald stressed the need for accessible and affordable satellite data solutions to empower African nations to make informed decisions for a more sustainable and prosperous future.

Sohail Elabd, the Director of International Strategies at ESRI, added to the conversation by discussing utilising Geographic Information System (GIS) technology in driving transformation across African industries. Elabd’s speech highlighted how GIS can enhance decision-making processes, improve spatial planning, and foster efficient resource allocation. He underlined the importance of training and capacity building in the region to ensure that African countries fully harness the potential of geospatial technology for their development goals.

The Rwanda Space Week Conference is in full swing and will extend until tomorrow, offering a platform for numerous high-level discussions. These discussions aim to foster the development of national capabilities within Rwanda, ensuring the optimal utilisation of space-based technologies to drive sustainable development.

Throughout this conference, experts from various fields will explore innovative ways to harness the potential of space technologies. This includes topics such as satellite applications for agriculture, environmental monitoring, telecommunications, and more. By facilitating these dialogues and knowledge-sharing, the conference aspires to empower Rwanda in utilising space technology as a catalyst for economic growth, environmental sustainability, and improved living standards. The event also provides a valuable opportunity for networking, partnerships, and collaboration to advance the nation’s space-related initiatives further.


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