“The vast African continent, with its diverse landscapes and rich cultural tapestry, has long been a cradle of innovation and untapped opportunities. Today, as we stand on the cusp of a new era in space exploration and technology, Africa emerges as a frontier brimming with immense potential for commercial space activities.”

View of Africa from space

Image credit: NASA via the Deep Space Climate Observatory (Public Domain)

In 2023, the Commercial Space in Africa sub-group of the SGAC’s Space Law and Policy project group conducted in-depth research on the general state of space activities in Africa. The purpose of this research was to propose a set of best practices that can serve as a model for developing relevant space legislation in African countries lacking space legislation. This research took a three-part approach exploring:

  1. the benefits and challenges of developing a commercial space industry for Africa
  2. a series of legal ‘best practices’ observed in different countries of comparable socio-economic level with the goal of fostering the development of commercial space and exploring continental avenues for collaboration
  3. a review of current international and regional instruments to support African countries in developing relevant and sustainable space legislation.

The final research paper, titled “Best Practices Framework for Developing Space Legislation in Africa,” identifies complex regulatory frameworks, funding constraints and the lack of robust infrastructure, an educated workforce, government policy that rewards entrepreneurial activities, and partnerships with established space programs in the developed world as the major challenges currently standing in the way of the development of a commercial space industry in Africa. We find that the benefits of developing such an industry extend far beyond technology and exploration: the potential to generate high-skilled jobs, stimulate economic growth, enhance agricultural productivity, improve resource management, bridge the digital divide, and foster international collaboration is undeniable, making space activities a tangible driver of socioeconomic progress having the potential to prioritize improved living standards, enhanced environmental stewardship, and greater connectivity both within the continent and with the wider world. 

This paper finds that the institution of space commerce should be discussed by African countries as the most interested in the regulation of such activities (especially regarding benefits sharing, space mining, environmental matters, etc.). Despite not having the full participation of all African countries in the main international discussions on space, there is a continuous and increasingly growing inclusion of African nations in the space sector. Still, it must be ensured that African participation is not only symbolic.

After exploring the space policies of various countries at a comparable socio-economic level whose commercial sector is in a development phase, this paper makes 10 key recommendations to African countries wishing to develop a commercial space industry:

  1. adopt a space policy framework law ;
  2. adapt patent and intellectual property law ; 
  3. create an efficient, light and secure licensing system ;
  4. limit the liability of governments and companies ;
  5. adapt export control systems ;
  6. facilitate investment ;
  7. include measures targeted at the space sector in general economic promotion ;
  8. encourage the development of infrastructure and the training system ;
  9. collaborate with other African countries to 
    1. agree on a mutual recognition and protection of patents ;
    2. harmonize standards ;
    3. create a common market for space services and goods ;
    4. develop shared funding mechanisms ;
  10. bear in mind that those measures function as a network, not as isolated pieces.

Through collaboration, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to harnessing the benefits of commercial space activities, Africa stands ready to unveil its boundless potential globally.



Read or download the final paper, “Best Practices Framework for Developing Space Legislation in Africa.”

This blog article was written by Marie Vanolli. Marie is a MSc Candidate in Public Policy & Management at the University of Lausanne, and holds a degree in Political Economy from the University of Oxford.