In the movie, “Black Panther”, Wakanda is a fictional African country of the future that is the most technologically advanced in the world.
Presently, in the real world there are African nations advancing in scientific innovation and space technology as they join the rest of the world in exploring the benefits of space development.
There will be approximately two billion people in Africa by 2040. Which I see it as an opportunity for exponential growth in creativity, and an explosion in entrepreneurial innovation for the continent.
The perception is that there is no expectation of growth in any type of technology development on the African continent. Yet, innovation is taking place, and entrepreneurial incubation centers are springing up all over the continent.
Today there are real examples of hundreds of new and advanced innovative labs and tech hubs that are starting across the continent. These hubs are supported by Google, GE, Facebook, Airbus, IBM and even the United Nations in countries, such as, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda, just to name a few.
These nations and others are making plans to deploy satellites, allowing for technology transfer between countries, regionally, and worldwide. In addition, local Universities and Space Agencies are leading many of these initiatives.
Currently, there are Space Agencies located in Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and with Egypt and Kenya on the way. The African Union recently conducted a study to explore the development of an African Space Agency, including participation by all 55-member nations. There is hope that its development will be accelerated and become a reality soon.
Nigeria has had satellites in space for over 10 years and is now advancing in developing its own satellites and making inroads into space entrepreneurism. Presently, Nigeria is the only African nation discussing the possibility of sending an astronaut into space.
Algeria has a long history of involvement in space through the utilization of its old launch facility to deploy satellites. Established in 2002, the Algerian Space Agency assists the government with space strategies, including the use of the country’s four satellites in the facilitation of scientific research and telecommunication. Algeria wants to use space technology to improve its social and economic development.
South Africa is hosting the development and utilization of the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This telescope will allow astronomers to look much deeper into space, and at a greater sensitivity than many current telescopes. Recently, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) signed a partnership agreement with Airbus to coordinate efforts through STEM Programs that will increase the number of homegrown African space entrepreneurs.
Ethiopia is home to the multi-million dollar Entoto Observatory and Research Center that opened in 2015, near the capital city of Addis Ababa. Ethiopia announced it would launch a satellite into orbit within three to five years to expand the monitoring of weather conditions.
Ghana recently sent its first satellite successfully into orbit in 2017 through All Nations University.
Egypt in 2017 approved ambitious plans to launch a new Egyptian Space Agency, and to build a space and satellite city.
Kenya is planning to send its first CubeSat into space in 2018.
The United Nations inaugurated two centers in Africa in 1998:
– The African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology, (CRASTE-LF) in Morocco
– The African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education (ARCSSTE-E) in Nigeria
The African Union is supporting centers specializing in the study of space science and satellite development. This initiative is the Pan African Space University. South Africa has been granted the hosting rights. This Program will focus on three core areas:
– Space Engineering
– Space Science
– Space Applications
For many of these nations, space development impacts and enhances the benefits of Earth observation, health monitoring, migration, weather monitoring, land development, communication, disaster management, national security, navigation, natural resource management, climate change, food security and ocean monitoring.
African nations in the past were excluded from space exploration due to the capital-intensive nature of space projects. Fortunately, Africa’s space programs are much more promising and affordable. With the cost of nanosatellites decreasing and becoming less expensive, launching items in space has become more affordable. This is due in part to new launch companies like SpaceX, Indian PSLV Rocket, and Rocket Labs it’s now easier to participate in space technology worldwide. Even conducting microgravity research, which many did not think feasible before, is now affordable and provides many focused research opportunities
As the space industry expands on the continent, the youth of Africa will now have many opportunities to be a vital force in the burgeoning fields created by space and science expansion. STEM development is encouraging for the youth, providing an outlet for an opportunity to become space entrepreneurs and future astronauts.
Forrest Whittaker is quoted in a recent article stating that, “Wakanda will go into space,” and my hope is that the phenomenal success of this movie will spark immense interest and curiosity regarding Africa’s current space advancements.
Currently, billions of dollars are being invested in the private sector of the space industry in the U.S. and around the world. I hope to see this trend spill over to and within the nations of the continent of Africa. The continent is rapidly moving forward to become a major part of space advancement in the world of space nations.
Soon, I believe there will be an African Space Station circling the earth, as well as, an African Moon and Mars facility for research, development, and entrepreneurial advancement. The future of space and technological innovation in Africa is here, real and advancing now.
Allen Herbert is Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for NanoRacks, LLC. He handles Africa, the Middle East, as well as, special projects.