The Pan African University (PAU) is a network of post-graduate research programs in five regions in Africa. PAU was launched in 2011 by the African Union Commission to foster excellent research in key development fields and enhance the attractiveness and global competitiveness of African higher education and research.
Selected leading research universities spread across the eastern, central, northern, southern and western sub-regions of Africa host PAU institutes in strategic research fields. The selection follows a competitive process that considers the university’s core research excellence.
The South African Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) won the opportunity to host the PAU Institute for Space Sciences, which is the fifth node of the PAU programs, representing the Southern Africa region.
The following universities host the other four PAU Institutes:
- The Abou Bekr Belkaid University of Tlemcen, hosting the PAU Institute for Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change (PAUWES), in Algeria (Northern Africa)
- The University of Ibadan, hosting the PAU Institute for Life and Erath Sciences (including Health and Agriculture, PAULESI), in Nigeria (Western Africa)
- The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology hosting the PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI), in Kenya (Eastern Africa)
- The University of Yaounde II, hosting the PAU Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences (PAUGHSS), in Cameroon (Central Africa)
The choice of CPUT to coordinate the space sciences programme by the South African government reflects the university’s successful space programs in the past decade, having launched two cubesats into space. Following the successful launch of ZA-Cube-2 on 27 December 2018, CPUT will receive more funding from the South African Department of Science and Technology to build three more nanosatellites for the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) constellation.
CPUT will work in collaboration with a consortium of six other South African universities working in the following areas of space sciences:
•Space Engineering – CPUT & Stellenbosch University
– Satellite Engineering
– Ground Segments
• Space Sciences – University of Cape Town, North-West University, Durban University of Technology & University of KwaZulu-Natal
– Space Physics
– Satellite Communications
– Navigation and Positioning
• Space Applications – University of Fort Hare (UFH) & University of Pretoria
– Earth Observations
The African Union in January 2016 approved the African Space Policy and the African Space Strategy following the adoption of the 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024) two years earlier. The PAU Institute for Space Sciences was established amid plans of building a viable continental space program managed by the African Space Agency, indicating an implementation phase of the African Space Strategy.
Academic programmes and scholarships
All PAU programmes are managed and implemented by the host university under the supervision of PAU Rectorate. The programmes are developed by subject experts and industry practitioners from the continent, diaspora and international community.
PAU Institutes are required to promote the inter-African cultural exchanges, ensuring that at least 70% of the students come other African countries. The African Union Commission is providing fully-funded scholarships to admitted post-graduate students. The scholarship for the PAU Institute of Space Sciences includes tuition (estimated at USD 4,800 for PhD and USD 4,200 for masters) and monthly living allowance at USD 750 for masters students and USD 1,000 for PhD students).
The PAU Institute for Space Sciences will soon call for the intake of its pioneer batch of postgraduate students. The institute originally planned to commence programme by February 2019 but had a little setback; however, the South African government is working earnestly with the African Union to resolve the surrounding challenges so the university can begin operation.
Capacity development is one of the key objectives of the African Space Agency program implementation and the PAU Institute for Space Science will be key towards achieving this.
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.