Leveraging Space Technologies to Achieve SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The Sustainable Development Goal 9 (SDG 9) aims to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation. To effectively monitor the progress of SDG 9, the United Nations developed eight targets and 12 indicators. Five of the targets are outcome-oriented, while the remaining three are the means of achieving these targets.

The five targets are outcome targets:

  • Develop sustainable, resilient and inclusive infrastructures;
  • Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation;
  • Increase access to financial services and markets;
  • Upgrade all industries and infrastructures for sustainability; and
  • Enhance research and upgrade industrial technologies.

The three means of achieving the target:

  • Facilitate sustainable infrastructure development for developing countries;
  • Support domestic technology development and industrial diversification;
  • Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in the least developed countries.
The Role of space technology on industry, innovation, and infrastructure development in Africa

Africa’s goal to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation can be achieved by leveraging space technologies. Also, infrastructure development and sustainable industrialisation are key drivers of growth. Consequently, industrialised nations benefit from diversified economic bases and lower costs of doing business. Though there has been some progress in the last two decades [across Africa], developing nations as a group still lag behind in terms of infrastructure development. 

Here are some examples of how space technologies have been leveraged to achieve SDG 9.

  • Internet access
  • Infrastructure mapping and monitoring, including maintenance of road infrastructure in rural environments, where the most reliable technology is satellite-based
Internet access

Several African nations have leveraged satellite technology to improve internet connectivity, especially in rural and underserved areas. But, more importantly, satellite internet provides the much needed reliable broadband connectivity, which will positively impact the businesses and the communities in Africa. For example, through Eutelsat and Facebook partnership to extend Wi-Fi connectivity in Africa, local businesses can offer affordable internet access to prepaid customers. To date, Eutelsat’s Express Wi-Fi platform has allowed access to affordable broadband for thousands of individuals across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With Express Wi-Fi, Eutelsat aims to connect thousands of people across rural and underserved communities in 12 African countries.

Furthermore, Nigeria has long recognised the role of satellite technology in its ICT sector. To this end,  it launched its first communications satellite, the NigComSat-1, in 2003. NigComSat-1 provided the required ICT backbone for geospatial data sharing and improved access in Nigeria and most parts of Africa, parts of the Middle East and Europe. Also, Algeria, Angola and Egypt have also launched communication satellites to allow communication between widely separated geographical regions.

Besides bridging the connectivity gap, space technologies have also been utilised to improve the educational sector in Africa. The covid 19 pandemic further accentuated the importance of satellite technology in the education sector. For instance, about one million Kenyan children couldn’t go to school because of distance and poverty. To alleviate the challenges, Avanti, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), sQuid, Whizz Education and Camara Education collaborated to create an e-learning platform, dubbed the “Project Imlango”. Similarly, Intelsat has partnered with coreNOC, Audio Union International, KM Systems and the Dominican Republic government to deliver cost-effective, high-speed internet to rural areas of the country as part of a nationwide wireless internet and infrastructure system for the Ministry of Education.

Innovation and infrastructure development

One of the primary goals that Africans sought to achieve with embracing space technologies is to improve scientific, technological, and engineering innovation in space-related activities and other sectors in the long run. For instance, Fastagger Kenya also leverages geospatial data to develop an AI-as-a-service (AIaas) platform to accelerate the adoption of AI applications in Africa by providing contextual data on the continent and helping entities develop bespoke AI application use cases. Also, the startup’s AlaaS platform includes image annotation services to AI-driven businesses across multiple sectors, including healthcare, energy, financial services, industrial and agriculture. Furthermore, in Rwanda, DMM.HeHe is driving a digital revolution with space technology. The start-up uses space technology to provide end-to-end logistics solutions and connect farmers to their customers. With a focus on supply chain optimisation, Hehe have built an end-to-end supply chain platform that has mapped out all the post-production or post-harvest operations processes. In addition, the startup has developed relevant technologies to help with logistics, warehousing, e-commerce, consumer-centred platforms and digital payment. Essentially, the company has created a link between these sectors without necessarily building new technologies from scratch.

Due to the constantly rising animal protein consumption in sub-Saharan Africa, South African agric-tech startup XY Analytics is capitalising on the USD 350 million African cattle farm market by offering satellite-enabled pasture optimisation and an IoT herd management tool to cattle farmers. The tool leverages geospatial data to monitor livestock’s health, movement, reproductive status, and location. XY analytics have developed two cutting edge products – Melusi Connect and SimplyGraze. 

Melusi Connect is an application that uses an IoT device attached to a cow’s ear to collect real-time critical health information such as body temperature, blood pressure, noise, rate of breathing, heartbeat, among others. This data is then sent to the cloud to be processed by a machine learning engine that generates insight and recommendations about the individual animal. In addition, the application provides impeccable messaging alerts accessible to smallholder farmers and emerging farmers [both educated and illiterate cattle farmers]. In the same vein, SimplyGraze is specifically designed to assist farmers in managing and improving the quality of grazing lands by analysing satellite imageries of the specific pasture. The system analyses grazing lands to determine the pasture’s vegetation index, water availability, mineral content, and vitamins.

In conclusion, it is clear that space technologies and space-based solutions are a must-have to ensure rapid infrastructural development within Africa. Therefore, it is imperative that governments create an enabling environment to ensure that ideas are quickly and easily transformed into tangible products and solutions capable of enhancing Africa’s sustainable development.


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