The Third African Space Stakeholders Dialogue, which held at Dakar in Senegal between June 12 and June 14 2019, provided an opportunity to elaborate on the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in promoting and contributing to the advancement of space technology in the African continent. To this end, a presentation was made by Zacharia Kingori, Project Coordinator of the IGAD Regional Infrastructure Master Plan (IRIMP). This presentation mainly focused on the origin, composition, scope of functions and activities of IGAD as an important part of the African space ecosystem.
In 1986, the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) was founded to pursue development and contain marauding drought in the Horn of Africa. Its member states include Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
In April 1995 in Addis Ababa, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government made a declaration to revitalize IGADD and expand cooperation among Member States. On 21st March 1996 in Nairobi, the Assembly signed “Letter of Instrument to amend the IGADD Charter” establishing the revitalized regional organization with a new name, “Intergovernmental Authority on Development”. IGAD with expanded areas of regional cooperation and a new organizational structure was launched during the Summit of the Heads of State and Government on 25th November 1996 in Djibouti. The Mission of IGAD is to assist and complement the efforts of the Member States through increased cooperation to achieve:
- Food security and environmental protection;
- Promotion and maintenance of peace and security and humanitarian affairs; and
- Economic cooperation and integration.
The founding leaders of IGAD were motivated by a vision where the people of the region would develop a regional identity, live in peace and enjoy a safe environment alleviating poverty through appropriate and effective sustainable development programmes.
There have been meaningful strides in the advancement of space science in and around the IGAD region over the years. The world’s first launch site on or near the equator was established in Kenya by Italy in 1964. The satellite, named Uhuru – the Swahili word for ‘freedom’ – a NASA-sponsored satellite (launched on Kenya’s Independence Day), was the first earth-orbiting mission dedicated entirely to celestial X-ray astronomy. In Kenya, the first astronomy programme was launched at the University of Nairobi in 2008. A space science department was launched at the Kenya Polytechnic University in 2013, and the Kenya Space Agency (KENSA) was established recently in 2017.
Kenya joined the league of sub-Saharan African nations to deploy a nano-satellite into space in May 2018. The satellite, 1KUNS-PF, was launched from the Japanese module of the International Space Station. Ethiopia plans to launch its first satellite in September 2019. The satellite will be used to gather data on water, climate and other weather-related phenomena.
IGAD is hopeful that the continental space-related activities, led by the African Union, will lead to technologies that will help improve services, particularly in infrastructure development, agriculture, environment and disaster management. In terms of resolving the challenges faced in the region, IGAD has invested in a number of programmes, which include: the IGAD Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN), the IGAD Security Sector Programme (ISSP); the IGAD Centre for Pastoral Area and Livestock Development (ICPALD), and the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC), among others.
IGAD is a Regional Economic Community (REC), one of the eight building blocs of the African Economic Community (AEC). The strategic location of the region, its size, ecological diversity, vast resources and people who are naturally integrated by culture and trans-boundary resources are among the main advantages that IGAD possesses. Furthermore, the IGAD region is host to a number of U.N agencies and the AUC (in Addis Ababa and Nairobi), which allows for leveraged communications and facilitating meetings with the various Heads of State on high level policy issues and topics of common interest within the region.
The political will for regional cooperation is one of the strongest assets of IGAD, and has led to the IGAD Secretariat playing an increasingly important role in regional coordination and working towards developing a common position for the Member States in various regional and international forums, meetings, and conferences.
Capacity building initiatives such as the Institutional Strengthening Action Programme (ISAP) are another major strength of IGAD. These include identifying training needs, developing training concepts to address the needs, mobilising funds to organize, conduct and facilitate the whole range of IGAD activities including cross-cutting themes like information management, gender and mediation processes.
In order to participate effectively in AU-led space activities, IGAD will need to work towards achieving the following milestones in the near future:
- Building and improving capacity for high schools/universities to engage in space science studies. Technology acquired will in future curtail dependence on other service providers, and make savings on costs of services.
- Helping to create and develop national space agencies among IGAD member states with harmonised policies, common standards, corroboration and regulation. An IGAD region Outer Space Programme will augment that of the African Union and make space activities affordable by collaborating and sharing potential benefits.
- Acquiring more satellites, expand region satellite capacity and coverage. Satellite coverage will improve telephone, radio and internet access in the rural and isolated pastoralist areas, helping lower urban-rural inequality.
- Partnering with the AU and other stakeholders, as well as collaborating with and assisting the AU Space Agency to strengthen space missions on the continent, in order to ensure optimal access to space-derived data, information, services and products ranging from digital aerial photography to topography, vegetation changes and weather patterns.
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.