The South African government has announced plans to invest R3.1 billion (approx. USD 179 million) in a new space infrastructure hub as part of an ambitious post-pandemic government spending.
Speaking during the launch of the inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium South Africa (SIDSSA) yesterday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the government is prioritising proposals for infrastructure sectors that are important to economic recovery and resilience.
“The SIDS process has prioritised key network industries for investment, specifically energy, water, transport and ICT infrastructure. These sectors have proven to have superior multiplier effects. They introduce greater efficiencies in the economy, promote spatial justice and have the capacity to absorb skills,” he said while noting that South Africa has an enormous capacity for infrastructure development.
The president unveiled the Sustainable Infrastructure Development strategic document which outlined the government’s ambition to invest a total value of R2.3 trillion (approx. USD 140 billion) in infrastructure, spread across about 270 projects that are currently under evaluation.
“Taken together, the projects can create more than 1.8 million direct and indirect jobs through their lifecycle.”
The document identifies the Space Infrastructure Hub project as one of the top five priority “catalytic projects” with high multiplier effects.
With the proposed R3.1 billion investment value, spread across three fiscal years, the Space Infrastructure Hub will allow for the development of satellite infrastructure, satellite-based augmentation systems, and earth observation satellites.
“Domestic access to this type of infrastructure will reduce South Africa’s reliance on other countries for the kind of information that these satellites can make available and is expected to reduce the timeframes for collecting necessary data.”
“It will provide information that might be used to develop products and services that can allow targeted responses to the socio-economic and infrastructure challenges South Africa must face.”
The government expects the investment to contribute over R3.96 billion to the nation’s GDP in the first three years and support 4,695 jobs per year, of which a quarter will be in the informal economy.
The document did not disclose further details about specific projects or programmes planned over the three years. However, in a follow-up response on Twitter, the South African Space Agency (SANSA) said: “We are taking a space value chain approach, and the spatial hub relates to this value chain and hence is more conceptual. The end-user will interface with the hub at different physical sites or digital portals.”
We are taking a space value chain approach and the spatial hub relates to this value chain and hence is more conceptual. The end user will interface with the hub at different physical sites or digital portals.
— SANSA (@SANSA7) June 24, 2020
SANSA is managing the government’s space programmes while championing support for a private sector-driven commercial space growth in South Africa.
The space agency in May announced plans to stimulate and make the public space sector sustainable over the next decade through an investment of just over ZAR 1.5 billion (about USD 86.3 million) into developing profitable space services.
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.