Highlights of the Launch of Kenya Space Agency Strategic Plan 2020-2025

Photo Credit: Susan Murabana

The Kenya Space Agency launched the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 at an event that held at Serena Hotel today in Kenya. The Speech as delivered by Monica Juma, the Cabinet Secretary for Defense is as follows:

Kenya’s involvement in space activities began as Kenya became independent in the early 1960s. In 1962, the Republic of Italy approached Kenya to explore the possibility of establishing a launching and tracking station along the Kenyan coast.

Italy had identified a vital Kenyan natural resource which is the combination of the East coast of a continent near the Equator. Satellites launched from the sites near the equator towards the east direction benefit from an initial boost equal to the velocity of Earth surface, and this saves a substantial amount of fuel for the rockets, thus lowering the cost of launch.

In 1963, the San Marco Satellite Launching and Tracking Station at Ngomeni, Malindi was established as a result of an agreement signed between the Royal Technical College of Nairobi, now the University of Nairobi, on behalf of the Government of Kenya and the University of Rome on behalf of the Government of Italy. This was followed by the Exchange of Notes in 1964 formalizing the Agreement.

The San Marco Space Centre comprises of a sea segment comprising of the main offshore launch site, known as the San Marco platform, as well as support platforms known as Santa Rita, which were used for command, control and communication as well as the land segment comprising of the ground station.

Launching from the San Marco platform began in earnest in 1967. Between 1967 and 1988, Italy in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted 27 launches comprising sounding rockets and 9 satellites from Ngomeni, Malindi.

The San Marco Centre has since been renamed as Luigi Broglio – Malindi Space Centre in recognition of the founder. Currently, the main activities at the Centre include Tracking, Telemetry and Command of satellites and launch vehicles, and acquisition of science data from astronomy satellites. These activities are realized through collaborations between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and other space agencies.

The Government of Kenya in recognition of the potential impact of the Space industry on a wide spectrum of the country’s social-economic needs established a body to coordinate space-related activities in Kenya. The Cabinet, on 12th August 1993, approved the establishment of the National Space Secretariat (NSS), which was to transition into a fully-fledged space agency.

The NSS was subsequently established on 5th June 2009 vide Gazette notice 5563 in the Office of the President, under the coordination of the Department of Defence, with the mandate to coordinate all space-related activities including the San Marco Project.

In 2014, the Ministry of Defence set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee coordinated by the NSS. In line with its mandate, the Committee drafted the Kenya Space Policy and the Kenya Space Strategy. A key policy recommendation was the need to establish the Kenya Space Agency whose mandate was to promote, coordinate and regulate space-related activities in the Country.

The Space Policy and Space Strategy were subjected to a public participation process on 22nd June 2015. The Cabinet thereafter approved the Policy, Strategy and KSA Order on 18th February 2016. Subsequently, the Kenya Space Agency (KSA) was established vide Legal Notice No. 22 of 7th March 2017 as the successor to the National Space Secretariat (NSS).  The Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Independent Members were gazetted on 20th July 2018 fully constituting the Board. The Board was subsequently inaugurated on 11th September 2018.

The 1964 San Marco agreement was reviewed and renewed in 1987, and in 1995 for a duration of fifteen years. The negotiations for a new agreement commenced in 2008 and were concluded on 24th October 2016 with the signing of a new agreement which included five implementing arrangements by former Defence Cabinet Secretary and current Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Raychelle Omamo on behalf of Kenyan Government, and the Italian Minister of Education, University and Research, Stefania Giannini on behalf of Italian Government.

Being an International Agreement, it needed the ratification by both the Kenyan and Italian Parliament. The Agreement was presented before the Eleventh Parliament for ratification but the process was not concluded before the term lapsed. Subsequently, the Ministry submitted the 2016 Agreement to the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee of the Twelfth Parliament for ratification.

The Committee conducted public participation and held a public hearing session on 2nd April 2019 prepared and tabled its report which was discussed on 23rd and 24th July 2019. The Italian Parliament ratified the agreement in 2019. I am very happy to report that our National Assembly ratified the agreement on 15th October 2020, just a few days ago. This opens up new opportunities for our nascent space industry.

The bilateral agreement has new provisions to ensure that Kenya derives optimum benefits from hosting the Space Centre. Some key provisions of the agreement include the establishment of a Joint Steering Committee (which would guide and oversee the implementation of the agreement), a Joint Management Board (which would be responsible for the supervision and verification activities undertaken at the Space Centre) and Working Groups to develop plans of action at the Space Centre. In addition, the agreement includes five implementing arrangements on:

  1. Support to the Kenyan National Space Agency;
  2. Establishment of a regional centre for Earth observation;
  3. Access to Earth observation and scientific data;
  4. Training and educational activities; and
  5. Telemedicine

Kenya aspires to be a middle-income economy by the year 2030, as envisaged in the Vision 2030, as well as deliver on the Big Four Agenda. Space Technology and its applications offer countries unique, fact-based perspectives to inform and support decision making in addressing a wide spectrum of a country’s socio-economic needs. These include security surveillance; job creation and poverty alleviation; environment and resource management; urban planning and rural development; food security and health, among others.

Albeit uncoordinated, Kenya has continued to harness space technology in sectors such as telecommunications, agriculture, natural resource management, mapping, urban planning, navigation, positioning and weather forecasting. For Kenya to reap optimum benefits from Space Science and Technology, as well as grow its Space Economy, there will be a need for better coordination, investment in requisite Space infrastructure, training of highly skilled labour and nurturing of up-stream and down-stream space industries.

This strategic plan clearly illustrates the role of space technology in support of Vision 2030, the Big Four Agenda and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a priority, KSA will in the next five years (2020-2025) focus on the following four core strategic themes;

  1. Delivery of Space Services;
  2. Developing National Space Capability;
  3. Sector Coordination and Leadership; and
  4. Corporate Positioning and Sustainability.

In Delivery of Space Services, the objective will be to enhance access to Space services and grow the demand for the Space services through effective and efficient service delivery and industry coordination. The Agency has identified five (5) Space programmes of service including; Earth observation, navigation and positioning, satellite communications, space operations and systems engineering, and space science and astronomy. This will benefit the National Government, County Governments, private sector and academia who are users of space services.

In Developing National Space Capability, the focus will be to develop national capability through assessment of space potential for Kenya, creating opportunities for the growth of space economy, investments in human capacity, acquisition of critical infrastructure, promotion of research and undertaking education and public awareness to promote the uptake and utilization of space science, technology and applications (SSTA) for socio-economic development.

In Space Sector Coordination and Leadership, KSA will establish a mechanism that will enhance synergy among stakeholders and enhance service delivery. The national government and county governments have various activities that require the support of Space technology-enabled services. Among the key strategies, KSA will seek to develop a Space bill, establish a standing advisory committee, creating networks and linkages as well as provide opportunities for the space sector to convene to share insights as well as network.

In Corporate Positioning and Sustainability, KSA will develop a communication strategy/policy to guide communications for both internal and external stakeholders as well as undertake promotional activities for public awareness of the Agency, its mandate, and the significance of Space services and capabilities in national development. KSA Agency will ensure that it is adequately staffed to deliver on its mandate and also seek to mobilize financial and non-financial resources for effective coordination, development and regulation of the space economy in Kenya.

The four core strategic themes will be supported by an implementation and coordination framework as well as effective monitoring and evaluation framework.

The ratification of the Bilateral Agreement between Kenya and Italy also provides added opportunities to grow our indigenous space sector. KSA is encouraged to engage with other local and international stakeholders who have advanced in this field, to build our capacity and enhance our potential.

Now that you have developed and are launching this strategic plan, we will be vigilant to ensure that you keep the promises you have made to Kenyans and that you will move with speed to harness the potential of space technology and its applications in support of the socio-economic development of this country.

With these remarks, I officially launch the Kenya Space Agency’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025.

Thank you.