Morayo Ogunsina, Best Female Participant at Space Governance Innovation Contest Gives Insight on African Space Industry

Morayo Ogunsina while working as an intern at Microsoft, Washington.

Following the results of the inaugural Space Governance Innovation Contest, Space in Africa caught up with the ‘Best Female Participant’ award recipient, Morayo Ogunsina, to discuss her participation in the competition, the African space industry, and the future development of the continent’s space sector. 

  • Tell us about your role in this year’s competition; what were your team’s submission and your contribution?

After hearing about the competition, I got in touch with my teammates as we were all part of a space club back in Nigeria, so it was only natural to discuss this assignment with them since most of us were engineers, we also recruited a fellow space law enthusiast colleague to join. 

While looking at the policy gaps, we realised that it didn’t tackle the main challenge, which is having an actual space industry in Africa. It’s challenging to apply a policy to a sector that isn’t fully-fledged. So we addressed how the space industry can achieve autonomy. It took us some time to decide how to manage the policy gap, and we weren’t sure if autonomy matched the competition brief, so we linked it to the policy gap on accessing space resources vis-a-vis building and sending satellites to space. 

My role was to figure out from an engineering perspective and a problem statement background how best to give a concise definition of what our problem was and ways to solve it. I also assisted in creating a project plan. I drafted a 4 phase plan thus; 

Timeline for achieving African autonomy:

Phase 1: National Synergy with Potential Space Actors – that is ensuring the common interest and contribution of African countries, basically conducting a SWOT analysis on the sector and its stakeholders.

Phase 2: Research & Development & Personal Training – that is addressing the technological and knowledge needs. Determining how to train and create a critical indigenous skill so that more individuals can acquire space knowledge and competence. 

Phase 3: Acquisition of Basic Competence in Design & Development of Space Systems – Ensuring Africans have the expertise to engage in space and satellite systems. 

Phase 4: Being a Global Space Actor– Becoming a major global player in outer space; this will enable us to influence any significant international policy gap, it will enhance our speaking power. 

I also read through the resources and sifted information on the current developments of the African space industry. I was able to extract critical solutions and ideas on how we can address the challenge we had defined and chosen. I identified where we needed to place our focus. I was also responsible for developing the six pillars of African autonomy. Through brainstorming, we were able to define a developmental framework which speaks of:

  • Legislation
  • Education
  • Governance
  • Finance & Investment
  • Technology
  • Resources

We, in turn, discussed how each of these affected the Space industry and what was needed to address the challenge areas. 

  • How did you get involved in space, and what are you currently working on?

Back in Nigeria, when I was a first-year student, I was always interested in space. Also, Abraham Akinwale was entirely instrumental in the development of my passion. He informed me about the space club they were starting, and I became a secretary. We held workshops for our members, where we learnt how to build things like parachutes from local materials, and a water rocket, as well as deploying payloads. 

Ever since then, I have been interested in space, and I keenly follow global space developments and its applications, in the African space industry especially. I do this so that when I am in a position to use my resources, I can build knowledge and contribute. I am working on my Masters in Artificial Intelligence, and I wish to go into robotics. I hope to use this knowledge in teaching and to supervise or to build satellites, rocketry and payload deployment. 

Previously I have also done some exciting things that have motivated me to progress in my field. I built a system that takes sound and then visualises it on a screen. That was my first achievement as a computer engineer, and I am very interested in hands-on projects. This got me an internship at Microsoft. I also have experience in building mobile applications. For instance, a note-sharing and textbook-selling app for students, with the potential for sharers to make money from this.  

For the future, I am very confident and excited about what I am going to do. And I have my eyes set on several projects. One of my plans is to engage in research as well. 

  • What are your future projections for African youth participation in space?

When you ask someone coming from Africa, they will tell you that all hope is lost for Africa and that innovative and creative minds are stifled. At some point, I also had this outlook. But going abroad and being exposed to different possibilities, I was able to rethink. I decided to commit to gaining and using this knowledge back home. So that we too can also develop at a systemic level, i.e. health, transport, banking, innovation, infrastructure, and education. 

One thing I have seen is that Africa has a lot of potentials and also a lot of natural resources that we can explore aside from oil. The significant motivations should be seeing our full potential realised. The movie Black Panther gave me a fascinating perspective and exposure to the possibility of Africa having an advanced society. It gave some insight into a better Africa, one that is powerful and self-sufficient. Instead of sourcing solutions externally, we can develop them ourselves in maybe 40 years, we too could look like this, and it deserves us working towards this. 

  • What does space governance mean to you?

When reading the competition preparatory papers, one term that caught my eye was that of responsible governance; I was able to understand this as the government and the public sector, private sector, being in sync with the objectives of space. This is a scenario where the government is not hiding anything from the public, and the public has some say in how they and outer space are being governed. There should be room for meaningful dialogue. In the context of space governance, the public should have access to the space industry, it should be observable, and we, as the public, should have some stake in that industry. Space governance is a broad concept which denotes a responsible and transparent government. 

  • As a woman, what has your experience in the space sector been, and how do you believe we can address the structural inequalities?

I have my own opinion about this. When I joined the space club, I didn’t feel any outward pressure to assert my space. The issue of inequality, even if it exists I don’t care, I care about pushing forward and getting to where I need to be, inequality is an obstacle which I just have to overcome. I want more women to be a part of this movement of just overcoming. I often do question whey there aren’t a lot of women taking part in the industry. At my time at Penn State, there were only three ladies in our set, and we were from different backgrounds. When there is an inequality that exists, get to that position and change it. I do not believe it is a barrier to my success, but I believe pushing forward will bring the most significant change. 

  • What was your takeaway from the competition and what advice would you give to anyone following your footsteps? 

My takeaway from the competition is that there is hope for Africa’s space industry. This competition showed me that other people also have the same desire to push Africa forward. Some people are just as passionate about the African space dream. 

Hopefully, my footsteps will be sufficient for them to know that they can do whatever they wish to do. They are bound to be obstacles along the way. Despite all of this always remember that you will always have another opportunity to do better. Having lost someone important, I recognise it is vital to measure your life in terms of impact and dopamine; that is, the number of things you do that make a difference and make you happy. Always have a bigger plan. Make it perfect and work towards it, and even if you don’t achieve it will still be useful. 

 

Morayo Ogunsina was a member of the team Thinkers as Doers that submitted their policy instrument entitled “Towards African Space Autonomy: Developmental Framework and Incorporated Synergies”. She credits her teammates Oyedamola Andrew Asiyanbola and Abraham Akinwale, for having endeavoured a fruitful and exciting affair. Morayo added that through this policy instrument, they were able to integrate the vision 2063 into their solution, which maps Africa’s autonomy in a practical and forward-thinking way. As the recipient of the ‘Best Female Participant’ award, she receives an internship and will work in women’s development programmes for the space industry among other capacity-building projects. She expressed how immensely proud she was to share her space vision and opinions with the rest of the world, and hoped that as many people as possible would come to know of the tremendous progress being made in the industry.  

© Space in Africa 2020

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New Report: The 2020 Edition of African Space Industry Annual Report is now available. It presents data and analyses on projects, deals, partnership and investments across the continent. It also provides analyses on the growing demand for space technologies and data on the continent, the business opportunities it offers and the necessary regulatory environment in the various countries.

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