Space technology like any other investment, should therefore not be ignored at all in the African continent. Those who have come to that realization are already making in-roads on the ground while those who still have doubts are still sitting on the sidelines while the clock ticks. The world has become such a globalized marketplace such that it waits for no one because opportunities are a click away and those who are connected can mostly always grab them.
The reason why space technology cannot be ignored is what it powers. Space technology powers almost everything from transportation in terms of navigation (road, air or sea transportation), agriculture, communication, mitigation of disasters, combating climate change, National security and several other domains just to name a few. Space technology powers these industries by providing vital information necessary to make accurate and timely decisions for the various responsible organizations in a country concerned with the various listed domains. For example, without quality information on impeding changes in climate, it is extremely hard to inform farmers what kind of crops to plant or when people need to move to higher grounds in case of floods.
With space technology, we are looking at high resolution imagery and vital information such as soil moisture and even PH levels as recorded by the various satellite bands, enabling the Ministries involved with the agricultural docket to send the right data at the right time to farmers hence preventing wastage of resource and improving on farm yields. This improves yields and overall well-being of a farming population in a country of which most African countries are predominantly vested in. We are also looking at communication which is mostly aided via the reception of communication signals from satellites launched into space for that particular purpose. This is important especially in terms of when disasters occur leading to beyond repair kind destruction on the physical infrastructure on the ground that result cut off, of ground communications systems. This is a process that makes it hard to have coordinated rescue efforts for people affected by such disasters due to break down of communication. Therefore most times, satellite communication is highly very beneficial in that time as that is when it can largely be utilized directly with hand held satellite communication devices. We are also aware of the fact that massive impending disasters that we are constantly experiencing around the word have to be monitored before, during and after their occurrence by the help of satellite technology constantly revolving around the earth after every 24 hrs . The imageries acquired from these satellite are fundamental on coordinating rescue efforts as mentioned before as well as ensuring that the citizens of affected countries continuously receive updates on the status to constantly prepare emotionally and in other formats that deem fit at that moment. Not so many African countries have that luxury yet. Hence the need for investing in space technology and utilizing its full potential for the people and the countries in the African continent.
The lack of commitment to space sciences in most countries in the African continent is mostly due to the initial cost involved in this space. Space technology requires so much initial investments that cannot be afforded upfront by most African countries in their current setting in terms of what to prioritize for their citizens first. This is mostly on ensuring that basic fronts such as food security are taken care of first. Therefore without having strategic partnership as African countries partnering with other African countries and/or Space technology companies partnering with African countries, this journey would only be just a dream and yet very fundamental for each Nation in Africa to achieve.
Most “pundits” will wonder why we are “wasting our time” in space technology while most African nations have several problems such as food security problems, lack of efficient infrastructure such as roads to support the process of trade in various nations in Africa, lack of political will to support the process of prosperity amongst a member of the country and several other blame games that we might carry on until the sun sets. However it is very fundamental to recognize that ensuring sustainable development and making sure that aspects such as food security as earlier outlined, is also depended upon the kind of information that is distributed amongst the people with a nation or continent if you will. Different regions in a country for example experience different weather conditions compared to their counterparts in the same countries but from a region not similar. Ensuring that the right information reaches to the last mile is the reason Space technology exists in collaboration with various other technologies to achieve this successfully. Most African countries are yet to experience such high levels of Autonomy hence the persistent call to collaborating and investing in Space Technologies.
This is a case that applies not just in Agriculture but also all other domains that require correct information for decision to be made in a timely and quality way. There so much to be explored in terms of the inroads to follow in investing in space technology but understanding the level of opportunities available in this domain in the African continent is key in starting or rather continuing with conversation on space technology in continent. There are several opportunities for both investors and individuals seeking careers in this space as well. The African continent has the chance to do better or in the most optimal way what was not previously achieved by other countries due to lack of information and the know on space technology. We now have information all around us and this can provide more insights and diverse manuscripts to choose from without necessarily re-inventing the entire wheel. Remember it all about the people!
Sylvia Makario is an expert in Geospatial engineering and Space technology. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Engineering and Space Technology and a Master of Science in Information Technology at Carnegie Mellon University.
She has worked with the United Nations and other organizations, with the key focus being the use of Space technology for social and economic development. Sylvia Makario is a Mandela Washington Fellow and currently a Global shaper by the world economic Forum member at the Kigali Hub where she continues to offer her time and expertise in developing societies in Rwanda and beyond. She is the co-founder of Hepta Analytics (www.heptanalytics.com ), a big data analytics,cloud computing and Geospatial company focused on helping small and medium enterprises make quality decisions faster and on real time through the utilization of the power of Data.