A parliamentary committee in Kenya has approved the signing of an “equal status” deal between the Kenyan and Italian governments for the Italian-run multibillion-dollar Luigi Broglio Space Centre.
Kenya and Italy have been renegotiating a new deal after the expiration of the 2003 legislative decree that handed the facility to the Italian Space Agency, but only reached an agreement as recently as 2016, which can only be effected upon parliamentary ratification and approval.
The Kenyan Defence and Foreign Relations committee has upheld the Cabinet’s decision on the signing of an “equal status” agreement, which will see Kenya earn 50% of commercial yields from third-party contracts provided by the facility, such as launching services, satellite tracking and telemetry services, communication services, data acquisition, surveillance and navigation, according to Business Daily Africa.
If the new deal comes into fruition, Kenya will collect Sh 25 million (approximately USD 250,000) in land rent from Italy for use of the Malindi-based Broglio Space Centre, subject to a Sh 5 million (approximately USD 50,000) increment after every five-year review window. The Italian government will further remit to Kenya an annual authorisation fee of Sh 5 million ($50,000) from each third party for the use of the facility.
The Broglio Space Centre, previously known as the San Marco Equatorial Range, was developed in the 1960s through a collaboration between Sapienza University of Rome’s Aerospace Research Centre and NASA, to serve for the launch of both Italian and international satellites.
The centre houses a main offshore equatorial launch facility known as the San Marco platform (completed in 1966), two secondary control facilities, and a communications ground station on the mainland. The San Marco launch site was in use from 1967-1988, and was instrumental in the launch of 27 Italian and international satellites.
While the satellite launch facilities and two secondary platforms are dilapidated, the communications ground station is still operational and helps track NASA, ESA, Italian, and other international satellites.
The Centre has operated as a foreign facility in Kenya, under the management of the Italian Space Agency, with little to no socio-economic gain to Kenya except for piecemeal tokens donated to the host community through the Coast Development Authority from the government of Italy.
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.