The Embassy of Japan (EoJ) in Rwanda and the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA), Rwanda’s leading organisation for space sector development, are collaborating to foster synergies among stakeholders in both countries’ space sectors.
The interest was developed during a webinar that the Rwanda Space Agency and the Embassy of Japan to Rwanda hosted on Friday, 30 September 2022, to provide a forum for discussion between various stakeholders in the space sector in both countries. After the webinar, business-to-government meetings were held to continue the conversation with Japanese companies interested in exploring the opportunities.
H.E. Mr. Masahiro Imai, Ambassador of Japan in Rwanda, said, “I believe that, regardless of public or private sectors, it is always essential for stakeholders to exchange views and interests directly. The organised webinar and the follow-up meetings currently taking place are practical steps to revitalize and further develop the existing cooperation between Japan and Rwanda in the space sector.”
Historical relations between Rwanda and Japan have strengthened several industries and are now extending to the booming space sector. The two nations signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) in 2018 to collaborate on space technologies with an emphasis on knowledge and technology transfer for the production of small satellites. This consequently resulted in the launch of Rwanda’s first satellite, the RWASAT-1.
The Japanese stakeholders, led by the Japanese Embassy in Rwanda, expressed their interest in collaborating with Rwandan institutions and private sector-driven projects in Rwanda’s space sector. The RSA will contribute expertise in skills development and on-the-ground support for the partnerships.
In line with this approach, the partnership has the potential to identify opportunities for investment in Rwanda’s space applications, including those of public and commercial organisations working to address regional concerns.
Professor Shinichi NAKASUKA, from the University of Tokyo’s Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics School of Engineering, while sharing his thoughts on the potential areas of collaboration said, “It is not good to stop the space activities at the point of success of your first CubeSat (RWASAT-1). I would recommend step-by-step growth for Rwanda, including higher-level satellite development, leading African nano-satellite constellation program, and utilisations of satellite data for social problem-solving.”
Japan’s space development programme has produced tremendous breakthroughs in recent years by combining technological capabilities and expertise. The developing Rwandan space sector can benefit from skilled manufacturing, launch vehicles, satellite imagery, and developed analytics provided by Japanese space businesses eager to form collaborations to service regional markets.
The Rwandan government is pursuing space-related activities as part of a larger drive to diversify and strengthen the domestic economy. According to Space in Africa, the African space and satellite industry was valued at USD 19.49 billion in 2021 and is predicted to grow to USD 22.6 billion by 2026. Given this significant economic potential, the Rwandan government sees the space industry as a key aspect of a broader economic strategy, and the anticipated partnership between Rwanda and Japan will be a cornerstone to achieving RSA’s mission.
The Embassy of Japan and RSA recognize the importance of international collaboration and cooperation to promote the industry for sustainable development. For example, RSA is investing in developing a ground station to provide all needed downlink capacity to sustain the operations of Japanese space operations. Satellite data-sharing capabilities can empower government officials, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions.
The cost of accessing space has decreased, according to Mr. Joseph ABAKUNDA, Chief Strategy Officer of RSA, as a result of the democratisation of the space sector coupled with innovation, research, and development. He added that this collaboration is timely, and the network that has been built with Japanese space pioneers will help to open up new space-based services including satellite broadband, Earth observation, and remote sensing applications.
More than 70 Japanese companies attended the webinar, with the goal of partnering on the ground with RSA and providing Rwandan institutions with the technology, training, and satellite data infrastructure they need to leverage data analysis, small satellite manufacturing capabilities, and industrial attachments.
RSA was established in 2020 with the mission of leading the growth and development of Rwanda’s space sector. It is a full-fledged company with support services that can help Rwanda pursue space projects and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
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