Leaders of Space Agencies in Africa: South Africa

Image Credit: IAF

The South African Space Agency (SANSA) was established in 2010, to promote the use of space and strengthen cooperation in space-related activities while fostering research in space science, advancing scientific engineering through developing human capital, and supporting industrial development in space technologies.

Prior to the establishment of SANSA, South Africa launched three satellites into space, and five satellites afterwards. SANSA is one of the leading space agencies on the African continent. The current Chief Executive Officer of the agency is Dr Valanathan Munsami.

Dr Valanathan Munsami was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of SANSA on 3 January 2017. Dr Munsami has held a number of positions within the Department of Science and Technology, including being the Chief Science and Technology Representative of the Department of Science and Technology since February 2016. Dr Munsami’s was actively involved in the formulation of Strategy and Policy development for the South African national space programme and at some point, Chaired the African Union Space Working Group, which developed the African Space Policy and Strategy that was approved by the African Heads of State. As the Chief Specialist for Astronomy, during his employment at the Department of Science and Technology, Dr Munsami was involved in the development of a National Multi-Wavelength Astronomy Strategy and the SKA Readiness Strategy.

Dr Munsami speaking about the South African National Space Agency at IAC 2019. Image Credit: IAF

Dr Munsami holds a PhD in Physics and has a research background in Solid State Physics and Space Physics. His research focus in space physics was on magnetospheric physics, particularly on the use of artificial intelligence and the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) for the study of magnetic storms. He also holds a Masters degree in Business Leadership from the University of South Africa, a Space Studies Program Diploma from the International Space University, and a Certificate in International Air, Space and Telecommunications Law from the University of Pretoria.

He is currently a member of the South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA) and is a Vice President of the International Astronautics Federation (IAF) Committee on Developing Countries and Emerging Nations. He also serves on the Advisory Boards of the Global Space Congress (GSC) and the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC). He has also been recently inducted as an academician of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).