Space industry to collaborate with African policymakers for growth

Some participants at the RCMRD Conference of Ministers
Some participants at 7th Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development  International Conference

African experts in space technology have been urged to collaborate with policymakers across the continent to enable communities to access information and data that will guide them in decision-making processes.

Space technology experts need to simplify and share their scientific evidence and data with policymakers to boost the continent’s economic growth, the meeting heard.

“As policymakers, we need to get simplified information to help us make informed decisions. This way, we will get science for transformation that we seek for our African communities,” said Judith Nabakooba, Chairperson, RCMRD Conference of Ministers during the opening ceremony.

This call was made at the ongoing 7th Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development  International Conference(RIC 2023) in Nairobi under the theme Next Level: Space to Community.

Dr Saley Mahaman Bachir, Senior Scientific Officer, African Union Commission Space Program noted that earth observation is a major contributor towards meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“Every research that we generate using space technology needs to fit in Africa’s Agenda 2063 to fill the gap between the technical pieces and the space science stakeholders,” said Dr Bachir.

“Promoting scientific innovation and governance that is driven by data will help Africa fight poverty.”

“Let us avoid working in silos because in any case, we are serving the communities. We need to work together to help the data that we generate help others,” added Mr. Davie Chilonga, Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development Malawi.

Africa’s emerging space industry is booming. There are more than 20 African countries with space programs. Clearly, countries are ramping up efforts to own satellites in space to gather country-specific information on weather, climate change, and security.

The continent’s space economy is estimated to be worth nearly $20 billion and is poised to grow, according to the 2022 annual sector report of research firm Space in Africa.

Ms. Mbarak Husna, Programme Manager at Food and Agriculture Organization, Kenya noted that coordination and integration of space technology and policy still remains a challenge in the continent.

“For a long time, we have ignored the academia. So there is a need for a connection between the policymakers and the academia that conducts the earth observation research,” said Mbarak. She said space science and technology need to be adopted in its totality across the continent.

“The question now  is how can we bring the two groups together to integrate and coordinate their activities for the growth of the sector.”

Dr Humbulani Mudau, South African National Space Agency(SANSA) noted it is critical to create strong alliances within the continent to boost the growth of space technology.

“It is critical to creating policies in the continent even before we start to set up space agencies,” said Dr Mudau.

“There is a huge potential in the continent. We only need to organize ourselves internally before looking into partnerships.”

Dr Emmanuel Nkurunziza, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development Director General noted the conference provides a fertile ground on how geo-science can effectively be used to inform policy.

Dr Nkurunziza stressed the need to build the impact of Geo-spatial technology in Africa.

“We need more innovations, and investments in space technology. And to extend these benefits to our African communities,” said Dr Nkurunziza.

Mr. Colin Marangu, Plant Protection and Food Safety Directorate at the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya said plant protection is vital if the continent is to avert food and nutrition insecurity.

Noting the importance of space technology in tackling transboundary and invasive pest infestations, Mr. Marangu said, “In Kenya, for example, during the desert locust infestation we were able to get real-time pests infestation through space science. With space science, you are able to know when you are being attacked”

Mr. Marangu added that scientists, academia, and policymakers need to trust each other.

“It took more than 30 years for policymakers to take action on climate change and came up with mitigation measures yet they were warned in the early 1990s about the effects of climate change,” said Mr. Marangu.

Dr Madau called for capacity building and the creation of opportunities for the youth and women to grow in the space industry.

“At SANSA, we are already focusing on a number of areas to build capacity in the space agency, we will develop small and medium enterprises in developing applications based on our common interest in earth observation,” said Dr Madau.

The Earth Observation Conference brought together stakeholders in space technology to find solutions to challenges facing the Earth through the use of Earth Observation technology.

Member countries are Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somali, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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