The GMES and Africa support programme has announced its 2023 Startups Development (SD) programme winners. The SD programme was created under the aegis of the GMES and Africa Incubation and Acceleration (GAIA) initiative, a part of the GMES and Africa Phase 2 programme, focused on supporting research and entrepreneurship in the African NewSpace ecosystem.
The programme received 43 applications from 20 African countries spread across the five regions within only 27 days of the open call. The applicants included African startups and companies at different business stages – innovations from the idea, pre-seed, piloting, or implementation – with some demonstrated success in leveraging space technology or EO application to solve holistic African challenges or achieve any Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition, the SD programme was created on the sidelines of the NewSpace Africa Conference 2023, scheduled to be held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 25th to 28th April 2023 to feature the brightest 15 local, budding startups in various stages of growth in the EO and geospatial space to showcase their innovations, gain key industry stakeholders’ attention, and develop their ideas into minimum viable products.
Meet the judges
The selection of the 15 winners involved a meticulous vetting process and grading by a team of eight distinguished judges drawn from seven African countries.
- Prof. George Wiafe, Marine Scientist and Founder, Edenway Foundation: Professor George Wiafe is a marine scientist with over 25 years of experience at the University of Ghana, sharing his knowledge and passion for science with students, professionals and the general public. He is championing the GAIA initiative for youths and is always looking for new ways to inspire and support young people in their pursuit of knowledge and innovation.
- Andre Nonguierma, Chief, GiSS Section, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa: Andre Nonguierma is currently the Chief of the Geospatial Information Section at the UN Economic Commission for Africa. He oversees the ECA’s work in advancing holistic geospatial information management strategies and governance and assisting African countries and regional entities in developing and implementing spatial information infrastructures. Mr Nonguierma brings over 30 years of professional experience in geospatial science and technology.
- Andiswa Mlisa, Former MD, South African National Space Agency: Andiswa Mlisa recently served as the Acting CEO of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) for 12 months after serving as SANSA’s Managing Director of the Earth Observation Programme. Ms Andiswa has been associated with promoting Earth observation from the beginning of her care, such as being co-chair of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) Capacity Building Committee and a co-chair of the GEO Programme Board. During her secondment by the South Africa Government to the GEO Secretariat in Switzerland, she coordinated the establishment and implementation of the first Regional GEO Initiative, AfriGEO. She was also the Chairperson of the South African Committee on Spatial Information (CSI).
- Dr Abimbola Alale, Former Managing Director, Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited: Dr Alale was a two-term council member of the Global Future Council on Space from 2020-2022. She is an active member and one of the significant contributors to ESOA (European Middle East Africa Satellite Operators Association). Dr Alale is one of the conveners of Women in Aerospace in Nigeria. She successfully hosted the 2020 ACTINSPACE Hackathon event in Nigeria while she was the MD/CEO of NIGCOMSAT.
- Ouafae Karim, Remote Sensing Engineer, Africa EO Services: Ms Karim is the training lead on the governing council of the Women in GMES & Africa Group. She has contributed to several environment management and climate monitoring projects and early warning infrastructures in Africa.
- Jessie Ndaba, Co-founder and CEO, Astrofica Technologies: Jessie Ndaba is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Astrofica Technologies, an engineering company providing solutions and services across high-technology sectors. She is an experienced engineer with a demonstrated history of working in the Electrical & Electronic Manufacturing industry. Her drive for utilising space science and technology to impact socio-economic and human capital development on the African continent has led her to lead various satellite integration projects for programmes focused on food security and water monitoring programmes. Jessie is an alumnus of the International Space University and has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
- Dr Emmanuel Nkurunziza, Director-General, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD): He took up the position at RCMRD in 2017 after an 8-year tenure as the Director-General of the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, a position he held concurrently with that of the Chief Registrar of Land Titles. Before this, he had worked in academia as a lecturer at Makerere University, Uganda and as a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK. Dr Nkurunziza’s academic background is in geomatics engineering, with a BSc in Land Surveying from Makerere University, Uganda. He holds an MSc in Urban Planning from the University of Wales, Cardiff, UK and a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Birmingham, UK.
- Dr Mahaman Bachir Saley holds a PhD in Remote Sensing and GIS, which he obtained in 2003 at Felix HOUPHOUET BOIGNY University, Abidjan – Cote d’Ivoire. Dr Mahaman has been in academia as a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer for the last 17 years. He has also worked with many international institutions, including UNESCO, AfDB, UNDP, and CIMA. His experience and research are focused on hydrology, climate change, and disaster and risk reduction. At the African Union Commission within the GMES Program, he is working on the long-term management of water and natural resources management.
The applicant’s solutions were graded using four predetermined criteria:
- The specific SDG their solution targets in Africa;
- The quality of the pitch deck;
- The viability of the idea/proposed solutions; and
- If the idea leverages EO/geospatial technologies for its solutions and core product offerings.
Here are the 2023 SD programme winners, their profiles and respective solutions.
All 15 winners will attend the NewSpace Africa Conference 2023 on an all-expense paid grant, network with top industry stakeholders and investors in the African space ecosystem, and pitch their ideas. Furthermore, they will each receive an exhibition booth (5m x 5m) to exhibit their products at the conference and feedback from reputable industry experts and stakeholders on participants’ pitches and business ideas.
Ayooluwa Adetola is a writer and editor at Space in Africa. She loves to share scientific information using the simplest words possible. When she’s not in front of a screen, she can be found with her nose buried in a book.