Leaders of Space Agencies in Africa: Angola

Dr Zolana Rui Joao, General Manager GGPEN

The Management Office for the National Space Program (GGPEN) was established through the Presidential Decree of Angola in 2003. The agency’s objective is to develop strategic studies to establish cooperation agreements with technical and scientific institutions in the space domain and ensure the creation of national technological and human competencies and the transfer of technology and know-how within the National Space Program. Furthermore, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information and Communications Technologies is responsible for regulating the affairs of the GGPEN. Dr Zolana Joao is the incumbent General Director of GGPEN and has held the position since 2014.

Furthermore, Dr Joao is a six-year non-executive director in the Angolan Institute of Communications (INACOM). He has a bachelor of technology degree in Electrical Engineering from the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa, and two Masters of Science (MSc) degree: one in Electrical Engineering from the South African Institute of Technology and the other in Electronics and Electrotechnics from École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs (ESIEE), Paris, France. He has also completed a professional engineering and management course at George Washington University.

Also, Dr Joao recently completed his doctorate programme in Engineering Management at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), George Washington University. Dr Joao’s doctoral research focused on “using high-resolution satellite imagery to manage large-scale projects”. 

During Dr Joao’s doctorate programme, he designed a Road Construction Assessment Model (RC-AM) to prevent contract overbilling in road construction projects. The RC-AM uses spectral, textural, and spatial pixel features from multispectral satellite imagery to identify road layers and measure road lengths to trigger road inspections. The model evolves road construction-status monitoring, enabling near real-time construction auditing to reduce contract overbilling.  

Furthermore, Dr Zolana Joao is an experienced Manager with demonstrated results in the Space and ICT industry, building/designing space programs and ICT regulations/policies. He is also engaged with programmes and projects with several national agencies and institutions worldwide. Dr Joao possesses excellent skills in leadership, management, and strategy.

As the General Director of GGPEN, Dr Joao has been instrumental in implementing several key projects within the agency, most notably the construction of Angola’s first satellite, Angosat 1 and several infrastructures developed to operationalise the satellite. Furthermore, he is involved in the construction of two new satellites projects expected to be launched by 2025 – Angosat 2 and Angosat3. The Angosat 2, a communications satellite and Angosat 3, an Earth observation satellite, were contracted to the French satellite manufacturing company, Airbus Defense and Space. In addition, he led the GGPEN team to launch a Satellite Mission Control Center (MCC) in Funda. The MCC was constructed to monitor the activities of its satellite and the associated ground infrastructure and ensure the continued communication with and data acquisition from other authorised spacecraft. Also, following a Presidential decree, GGPEN, under the authority of Dr Joao, has begun upgrading its existing satellite ground station facility to accommodate the AngoSat-2, which is expected to be launched in 2022. Furthermore, following GGPEN’s acquisition of an Earth observation tool dubbed Open JL in 2018, Dr Joao and his team at the agency has been developing an Earth observation programme to improve the country’s effectiveness in border control, track the level of river flows, and observe, in real-time, the state of specific resources within the country. 

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