African Space Industry Top 10 Under 30 – Class 2019

The African space ecosystem is expanding at a faster pace in modern times, compared to previous decades. Theories suggest that this is due to increased input from government agencies and international organisations, and while this is valid, it would be unfair to ignore those individuals who have stood out, who have excelled in their respective fields of endeavour, and more importantly, who have refused to be constrained by their young age, as if operating by the popular injunction to not allow anyone despise their youth.

Young Africans are disrupting the space industry and achieving milestones, but Space in Africa made a deliberate decision to beam its spotlight on an elite category: space professional below the age of thirty. This is premised on the fact that in spite of the huge strides they may have made, they are still in the early stages of their respective careers, and they are definitely poised to do a lot more in the coming decades.

This exclusive list features engineers, scientists, business developers, researchers and academicians from all corners of Africa who have contributed in their own little way to not only developing their nation’s space industry, but also expanding knowledge in Africa’s evolving space sector. The compilation has curated partly in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic launch into the Moon.



South Africa (27)
Ana-Mia Louw obtained a bachelor’s degree in Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch in 2014. While studying, she developed an interest in optical design while doing an internship under South Africa’s premier optical designer, and thereafter took a course in advanced optical physics. After graduation she immediately joined the Simera team as an optical designer.

Her passion for management and optics led to her spearheading Simera Sense, Simera Group’s product development company for imaging systems, focusing on earth observation payloads for small satellites with the xScape range of payloads. Since the start of 2018, Mia has been managing Simera Sense, and currently has 12 engineers working under her.

She is continually expanding her knowledge in optics and management, and she recently completed a financial management course at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. She is a passionate and enthusiastic engineer with high hopes for the future of the space industry, both in South Africa and in the world with unified space collaboration.

Before embarking on the current development of nanosatellites in Simera Sense, Ana-Mia worked on three larger Earth observation satellite payloads that were launched in 2018.

When not involved in the space industry, Ana-Mia literally climbs walls to stay fit, but only when it is not feasible to scale cliff fences of the mountains around Cape Town.


South Africa (20)
Brittany Bull was part of the team of teenage girls who designed Africaʼs first privately-owned Pico satellite, which is due to launch in mid 2020 as the final stage of the MEDO Space programme, in which she participated from late 2015 to early 2018 as a high school student. Raised by a single mother, she attended Pelican Park High school on the Cape Flats. She is currently studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She also plans on pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Space Systems Engineering at Morehead State University in the USA in the fall of 2019, and will be making history as one of the first African students to do so.

During the gap year which she took in 2018 to decide on her future career path, Brittany worked as an intern at XinaBox Limited’s software and Research department and also facilitated the company’s Space STEM programme at various schools around the world (with particular focus on South African schools), to get a feel of the tech and space industry in South Africa. While at XinaBox, she got to work on a number of satellite projects aimed at STEM education, with one of them launching a constellation of over 60 nano-satellites in April 2019.

Brittany is an avid surfer in her free time.


Algeria (29)
Djamal Darfilal was born and raised in Tlemcen, Algeria. He obtained a PhD in Energetics and Applied Thermal from the University of Tlemcen through the WESA program in cooperation with UNU and PAUWES universities. The WESA project aims to support the development of PAUWES by supporting young scientists and enhancing research activities applicable in the areas of water and energy security in Africa.

Djamal is currently a senior researcher who works at the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL), and specifically at the Satellite Development Centre (CDS). His research interests include: satellite propulsion (chemical, RESISTOJET and electrical propulsion), aerospace, energetics and CFD analysis.

Djamal is proficient in mechanical design and modelling of 3D parts, surface modelling and large assemblies using Solidworks. He possesses a solid background in performing fluid flow simulations by finite volume analysis tools, using Ansys Workbench and MATLAB. He participated in a KHTT program which culminated in the building, integration, and launch of the medium resolution satellite AlSat-1B.


Ghana (29)
Joseph Quansah is a co-founder, technical member and administrator of the All Nations University Space Systems Technology Laboratory [ANU-SSTL] in Ghana. He is also a lecturer at the Electronics and Communications Engineering department of the University. He completed his Master’s degree in Space Systems Engineering from Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan in 2017. He pursued Electronics and Communication Engineering at the All Nations University as his first degree. He is one of the developers of Ghana’s first Satellite, “GhanaSat-1” which was launched and deployed to orbit in July 2017.

His research interests include: space systems engineering, CubeSat technology, atmospheric science and space weather forecast. He works with a team helping to advance space science and satellite technology activities in Ghana and the rest of Africa. He has contributed to organising the annual Space Science and Satellite Technology Applications Conference (SSSTA) and other space-related outreach programs directed at young and upcoming generation in pursuit of promoting space science and technology.

He has participated in both local and international space-related conferences/workshops, and has appeared on the Young Africa Space Engineers in the Global Space panel at the UN-South Africa Symposium on Basic Space Technology. He’s currently on a team helping to draft Ghana’s space policy.


Ghana (29)
Kingsley Ahenkora-Duodu is a Mathematics lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and a Ph.D researcher in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds under the supervision of Prof. Melvin Hoare, for the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA), a project supported by the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund. He is a trained telescope operator and currently the National Point of Contact for Ghana at the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) in support of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. He was one of the first students selected to participate in the DARA Postgraduate Basic Training Programme.

Kingsley was chosen as a science commissioning team member of the African very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) network for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project in commissioning the largest single radio telescope in Africa : Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory (GRAO). He has a background in nuclear science from University of Ghana, and “medical” Physics from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Kingsley has actively participated in several conferences and workshops, some of which include: the summer school for introductory course in Astronomy for new research students at Queen's University, Belfast in Northern Ireland, the 16th Synthesis Imaging Workshop in New Mexico, U.S.A; West African International Summer School for Young Astronomers (WAISSYA-2017), Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence(SETI) Skills Development Workshop organised by Berkeley SETI Research Center, SKA-Africa and African Institute of Mathematics, the 39th International School for Young Astronomers (ISYA – Ethiopia); the Science Communication Training Workshop organised by SKA-Africa in Ethiopia, and the First Big Data Africa Summer School in Cape Town.

Kingsley recently made a presentation on the DARA project and its benefits to Africa during the African Leadership Congress on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development organised by the Africa Union in Abuja, Nigeria. His passion and drive for STEAM motivates him to be involved in several outreaches engaging students, researchers and industrial players in the field. He recently volunteered to assist as an instructor in the DARA Postgraduate Training Programme, lecturing 20 students from Kenya and Ghana at GRAO. Kingsley is optimistic about the Africa space industry, and believes that the DARA project has laid a solid network foundation for the youth in Africa.


South Africa (29)
Leehandi De-Witt has worked in the South African Space industry for nearly 6 years, and is currently employed by the satellite component manufacturer, NewSpace Systems, as its Sales and Marketing Manager and Export Compliance Officer. Having graduated Cum Laude in the field of International Relations, Leehandi continues to utilise her policy background through her positions as ad hoc Policy Advisor and UNCOPUOS representative to the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment, and has in the past provided policy inputs to organisations such as the SCS Aerospace Group, the South African National Space Systems Enterprise Initiative and indirectly, to the AFRIGEOSS papers, amendments to the South African Space Affairs Act and the African Space Policy, which was adopted in 2016 by the AU.

Leehandi has remained actively involved in outreach initiatives, and currently holds the position of South African National Point of Contact for the Space Generation Advisory Council, which focuses on nurturing the future generation of space professionals. Through her developmental background and her engagement in various industry and policy roles, Leehandi seeks to support nascent space faring nations by advocating for the creation of a sustainable space ecosystem, which ensures that space technologies and applications are utilised to assist local communities in tackling the pervasive challenges being faced at home and elsewhere.


Tunisia (27)
Rania Toukebri is the current Regional Coordinator of Africa in Space Generation Advisory Council In Support of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. She has been previously the National Point of Contact of Tunisia in the SGAC as well. She is a software & hardware engineer working for space applications. She works on the design, verification and integration of onboard computers and data storage units as well as other satellite components.

Toukebri participated in the development of several satellite equipment mostly for the European Space Agency projects like Jupiter icy moons satellite, ENMap satellite, MetOp satellite. She is currently working with designated teams on Biomass satellite and Kompsat 7 satellite, and would soon be involved with Plato Telescope. She has also been in several workshops related to space innovation and research; she has been a speaker and moderated panels at Space Generation Congress Global Conference for emerging countries. She has been a delegate at the UN Committee of Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) and presented recommendations with the SGAC team. She is currently working on the development of the space market in Africa with other African space experts.

Toukebri had an engineering diploma from the National Institute of Applied Sciences and Technologies. She studied electronics and instrumentation. Her graduation project was on a nano satellite IP2Sat with the team of Université de Picardie Jules Verne in France, one CubeSat among 50 in a European constellation (QB50). She obtained a Master’s Degree in Embedded Systems from Université de Picardie Jules Verne, worked on the design of an onboard computer of a Bombardier project called “surfer”, and further earned a certificate in Cryptography from Stanford University.


Sudan (29)
Rayan Imam graduated from the University of Khartoum, Sudan with a degree in Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Space Technology from University of Surrey and a Specialising Master’s Degree in Satellite Navigation from Politecnico di Torino, Italy. She worked as a research engineer on the University of Khartoum’s CubeSat Project, and as a lecturer at the university’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. She is the Space Generation Advisory Council's (SGAC) National Point of Contact in Sudan (NPoC), and also the Near Earth Objects (NEO) project group lead. Currently, Rayan is a Ph.D student at Politecnico Di Torino.


Zimbabwe (24)
Ruvimbo Samanga is a graduate of Law from the University of Pretoria and a Member of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) of the United Nations, where she currently serves as the National Point of Contact for Zimbabwe.

Ruvimbo’s Space journey began when she coached the winning team of the Manfred Lachs Moot Court World Finals Competition 2018 in Bremen, Germany, held during the 68th International Astronautical Congress, which team turned out to be the first African winners since the inception of the competition in 1991. She was previously a semi finalist at the same competition in the preceding year. Recently, she participated as a delegate and presented a paper titled: “Lunar Ethics and the Implication of Resource Mining in Outer Space,” at the African Leadership Conference (ALC) Youth Forum 2018 which held at the NICON Luxury Hotel Abuja, Nigeria. She was also recently inducted into Banking On Africa’s 10,000 Points of Light Programme, a Pan-African youth-led development think tank founded by prominent Zimbabwean businessman, Mr Mutumwa Mawere.

Her focus is on Space Applications for sustainable development, namely the use of satellite technology in the mining and petroleum industries as well as for disaster management. She is presently working with the recently established Zimbabwean Space Agency to develop space capacity in Zimbabwe, and is keen on policy and framework drafting in her career as a space lawyer.

Ruvimbo is also a recipient of the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship for Post-Graduate Studies in International Trade and Investment Law in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa. She looks forward to sharing her findings at the upcoming International Astronautical Congress where her paper, which further expounds on the international trade and investment aspects pertaining to the space industry in general and nano-satellite usage in particular in the African context, has been accepted for presentation. She hopes in her research to provide African governments with a framework through which they can engage with Space applications to promote socio-economic development on the continent.


Kenya (27)
Vivianne Meta is the Geomatics Lead at LocateIT Limited, a Geo-ICT company based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has vast experience in the use and application of geographic information systems, earth observation and surveying technologies. A graduate of Geomatics Engineering, she is involved in implementation of LocateIT’s geospatial projects including those entailing policy formulation, implementation, development, monitoring & evaluation.

Vivianne is also involved in business development and as part of the project team, played an instrumental role in the implementation of the County Development Information System (CDIS), a flagship project developed, conceptualised and implemented by LocateIT to support the development plans of county governments. She is also a member of the African Leadership Conference (ALC) on Space Science Youth Forum, a body concerned with promoting an enabling environment for the advancement of the space industry in Africa.

Beyond just being a professional in the industry, Vivianne is extremely passionate about space science and attributes her motivation to the satisfaction gained from seeing communities getting transformed through the work she does, most importantly the application of geo-technologies for sustainable development initiatives, and would do just about anything to steer this revolution globally.