According to Euroconsult, Africa has an emerging space market of US$400billion and its contribution to the global space market cannot be overemphasized. The sojourn started in February 1999 when South Africa’s first satellite, Sunsat-1, was launched built by Stellenbosch University, South Africa – this was Africa’s first step which will eventually lead to a giant leap for the continent. In November 2002, Algeria joined the game by launching her first satellite, Alsat-1 built by UK Based Surrey Space Technology Limited (SSTL) and Algerian Centre National des Techniques Spatiales (CNTS). In September the following year, Nigeria, being the leading economy and the most populous country in the region launched her first Satellite; NigeriaSat-1 built by UK Based Surrey Space Technology Limited (SSTL); four years later, In April 2007, MisrSat-1 was launched by Egypt built by Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences together with the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Ukraine.
Eighteen years after the first sojourn to space, the industry has accelerated with hundreds of millions ($) invested into it. The space industry contributes to the objectives of the continent for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. It drives scientific progress and boosts growth and employment in other areas such as telecommunications, navigation, and Earth observation. These systems and services guarantee independence and security, while also helping to address major societal challenges including climate change, scare resources, health, and an ageing population. Having the largest market in the industry (based on investment) are Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Angola and Egypt. Other key players include Morocco, Kenya, Tunisia and Gabon.
SGAC activities in the region dated back to 2002. Since then, several SGAC activities have been organized in the region. This include Yuri’s night, world space week, asteroid day, asteroid search campaign, GIS day, NASA International Space Apps challenge, Global Space Balloon Challenge, YouthMappers Maphathons, and space education and outreach. We have activities spanning through at least 15 African countries with over 20 National Point of Contact (NPoCs). We invite individuals passionate about making Africa the next frontier in the global Space industry to join the team.
Current/Recent Activities in Region
The first African Space Generation Workshop (AF-SGW); a two-day regional workshop for students and young professionals in the African region will be held on 16-17 November 2017 in Akure City, Nigeria in conjunction with the Centre for Space Research and Applications, Federal University of Technology, Akure. The theme and key objective of the AF-SGW is: To Ignite the Birth of the Next Generation of African Space Science Leaders.
Funding has always been a major determinant of Space technology and lack of funding has been a major problem in the African industry which is driving more attention to Small Satellites development (Nanosatellites) and Countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya have invested in this.
On 21 November 2013, South Africa made history by becoming the first African country to launch its own CubeSat (TshepisoSAT) into space. Another South Africa cubeSAT (ZA-AeroSat) was launched in April, 2017.
The University of Nairobi in Kenya is also working on a CubeSAt project called IKUNS-PF (for monitoring of agriculture and coastal areas) which has got accepted into the UNOOSA KiboCube program.
The BIRDS Project (The Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project. acronym as “Birds project.” is a cross-border interdisciplinary satellite project supported by Japan (participating countries are; Ghana, Mongolia, Nigeria and Bangladesh)) involving the Federal University of Technology, Akure Ondo State Nigeria and All Nations University College, Koforidua, Eastern Region, Ghana has also yielded two CubeSAT for both Ghana and Nigeria launched in June, 2017.
As much as the Space Industries in other parts of the world focus on exploring other planets, most importantly trying to make Mars like Earth, the space industry in Africa is focused on not making Earth more like Mars – this is evident in the goals and objectives of their space missions. Most of the investments in the region focuses on Earth observations, using space technology to tackle problems like Security, Telemedicine, Climate Change, Agriculture, Disaster Monitoring, communications etc. for example, one of Africa’s key player in the industry, Nigeria Communication Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) – is leading the way in providing better internet access to every part of the continent including the most rural part.