Following the recommendations of the national consultations on the future of higher education in Senegal, the Government of Senegal is set to grow the nation’s capability in the development of small satellites and space applications.
On January 14, Senegal’s Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Mary Teuw Niane, signed two agreements with the National Center for Space Studies of France (CNES) and the Ariane Group to step up collaboration between Senegal and its erstwhile colonial master.
The scope of the space cooperation covers technology transfer programs, joint satellites programs, education initiatives, specialist training and personnel exchanges.
The cooperation partnership is expected to materialize in Senegal’s City of Knowledge with the establishment of satellite design and assembly centre for the development of small satellites. The centre will help Senegalese newspace startups to competitively join the global satellite OEM value chain in the long run, as well as help the government with its space technology needs.
With no principal space agency, Senegal’s Higher Institute of Advanced Technologies is designated to implement the agreement in collaboration with other government institutions, the research community and the private sector.
The Minister, Mary Teuw Niane, expressed confidence in how the space cooperation could create “new paradigms to research, security as well as to agriculture and habitat among other areas”. According to the Minister, “it is possible to rise to the challenge and place Senegal among the countries that matter in the field of space studies”.
Jean-Pascal Le Franc, CNES’s Director of Programming, International and Quality, emphasized the commitment of the CNES and the French government to help create a space ecosystem that will spur innovation and facilitate the emergence of many newspace startups in Senegal. According to him, “many African nations are increasingly involved in space, both for its applications and for its academic and educational benefits. This agreement putting our cooperation with Senegal on a formal footing feeds into this dynamic and it’s great to see that future exchanges between CNES and Senegal’s Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation are going to help establish Africa’s space ecosystem.”
If the partnership is successfully implemented, Senegal could join ranks with the growing newspace cluster in South Africa and the emerging aerospace ecosystem in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
Recall that in June 2018, the President of Cote d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara approved an agreement with Airbus Defence and Space to deliver an earth observation satellite by 2020 to monitor maritime borders, tackle pirates and terrorists in the Gulf of Guinea and obtain better meteorological data for the country.
As at February 2019, only eight African countries have successfully launched a satellite into outer space. The countries include South Africa (7 satellites), Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt (6 each), Morocco (3), Angola, Kenya and Ghana (1 each).
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.