Africa Joins the Space Race

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With the recent visits of Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to Africa emphasizing economic development, little is mentioned much less known that many African nations are emerging as viable participants in the space technology space race, joining other countries such as India, Brazil, South Korea and China.

Leading the pack are Nigeria and South Africa. Both African countries have opened space agencies to begin their trek to space with an eye on developing space technologies ranging from satellites to other areas such as telemedicine for health, land mapping and telecommunications.

Nigeria established the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) in 1998 and developed a 25-year roadmap for the Nigeria Space Program. The focus includes basic space science and technology, remote sensing, satellite meteorology, communications and information technology, in addition to defense and security. Furthermore, three years ago, Nigeria became the second country in Africa, after South Africa, to launch its own satellite.

South Africa has also pledged to develop its astronomy and space sector, and in July 2006, its cabinet approved the South African Space Agency as an institutional vehicle to look at space science and technology.

In a recent ABC news section, South Africa's space program was mentioned as a sector that could boost their economy. "South Africa aims to become a regional center for space technology, investing in satellite and telescope projects to support its ailing economy," said Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor. (Reuters, August 5, 2009)

Africa's Satelite Potential

The continent of Africa's growing appetite for satellite images is honing the attention of South Africa's SunSpace satellite manufacturing company.

"The international market for very high resolution remote-sensing data is expanding... and Africa obviously has massive potential to sell our technology," Ron Olivier, executive director business development at SunSpace, told Reuters on Aug 6, 2009.

Oliver estimated the annual global market value for this type of data at 1.2 billion rand ($151.7 million U.S.).

African Astronauts

While the satellite technology industry is expanding the economic potential of Africa, the goal of Nigeria's manned space program is to send a man to space by 2016 and to the moon by 2030.

Again, South Africa has beaten them to the punch - technically. In 2002, Mark Shuttleworth became the first African astronaut to experience outer-space. He was one of the initiators of the burgeoning space tourism industry becoming the second self funded space tourist. According to the South African Space Program Aerospace Guide, Shuttleworth spent his time onboard the International Space Station (ISS) conducting AIDS experiments and research in order to understand a virus that affects so many Africans and African Americans.

In Africa, the space race is just beginning. This means more countries will participate than just the United States, Russia, and other space and technology leaders. Indeed, more is on the horizon than just the opportunity to economically enhance industries across many spectrums. There is a need to facilitate information exchange, worldwide, as new African technologies and fresh mindset enhance collaboration towards the cosmos.

It is my belief that these emerging space programs present an opportunity for the private sector as well and inter-governmental cooperation, which is the true vision of space - as a catalyst of development, commerce, and goodwill.

About JAKA Consulting Group

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