Panafrican News Agency

Will African countries benefit from global satellite technology race? (Feature by Kennedy Abwao, PANA Correspondent)

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) – The development of space technology capacity and capability in any country around the world often points to its growing industrial development and sophistication.

African countries, going by the number of existing state-funded space technology programmes, have not been left behind.

In Africa, several countries, including Algeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco, have put in place national space technology agencies to provide usable data obtained from remote sensing and the space to manage floods, fires, natural resources and weather prediction.

The Algeria Space Agency, the South African Space Agency, the National Space Research and Development Agency, Nigeria, the Kenya Space Agency, the Royal Centre for Remote Sensing Space-Morocco, the Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre are some of the continent’s most active.

Information obtained from the space is important for national development. It enables governments to carry out key state functions such as national defence, aeronautical work and weather forecasting, agriculture and food security, management of conflicts, health and disease outbreaks monitoring.

Across the world, India, an emerging global powerhouse in satellite technologies, achieved a major technological feat on 1 April, 2019, when the Indian Space Research Organisation launched the EMISAT, an electronic signal intelligence (ELINT) satellite through a new rocket carrying 29 satellites in total.

According to sources in Nairobi, the EMISAT mission was a historical scientific breakthrough in many respects.

First, the Indian Space Research body used a new rocket PSLV, which placed payloads in three orbits in the one launch for the first time. Likewise, the PSLV4th stage would turn into an orbiting research platform conducting space research for the first time.

Apart from the launch of the EMISAT, which is a military satellite, India also launched an Anti-Satellite Missile (A-Sat) on 29 March 2019. The successful launch of the anti-satellite Missile, effectively places India as the fourth biggest space super power, after the US, Russia and China.

The missile used for the test was specifically designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, according to the Indian government.

According to an information package availed to PANA, India has managed to conduct its anti-missile tests at an altitude of 300 km and has demonstrated that it has the capabilities to reach 30,000 km.

The A-Sat was designed to minimise debris by choosing the target at the altitude of 300 km in contrast to China, which carried out a similar operation in 2007 at an altitude of 800 km.

Indian scientists assert debris produced by the Chinese technology could be on the outer space for decades while those generated by Mission Shakti, A-Sat missile mission code-name, could be cleared in weeks.

In the middle of a global satellite technology race, African countries are bracing for the launch of a unified continental space agency, to save the costs for all the 55 countries all seeking access to space.

The African Union (AU) approved Egypt as the host country for the African Space Agency, which has been mandated to promote and coordinate the implementation of space programmes.

The African Space Agency has been mandated to ensure space programmes play a critical role in improving Africa’s economy and the quality of life for its people.

The agency’s other major task would be to work towards creating the proper infrastructure for satellite technologies in Africa, according to a draft protocol and statute approved by the African ministers of education, science and technology.

Earlier this year, the AU Summit held in Feb. 2019 in Addis Ababa, approved a resolution to freeze the creation of new institutions proposed by the various councils of ministers as specialized AU agencies.

India’s rapid expansion in the area of satellite technologies offers African countries a new avenue to forge partnerships and to dislodge the US and the European Union dominance of global technology.

The results of better satellite technologies in Africa have helped several countries to make new discoveries of minerals and escalated a renewed scramble for a piece of action in Africa.

India is promising to continue sharing its satellite technologies with the rest of the world.

Although their interest in Africa has not been termed predatory, India’s indigenous capacity in the satellite technology field has made it a nation of choice for many countries seeking to improve their satellite technology capabilities.

India signed an agreement with Sao Tome and Principe several months back to set up a space centre in the country. ISRO, the Indian Space body, will help to set up the space centre.

According to Indian officials, the mission Shakti has demonstrated India’s space power and enhanced the respect New Delhi enjoys internationally.

The Indian authorities say the test has distinguished India’s missile technology because of its ability to host the largest collection of civilian satellites.

-0- PANA AO/MA 6May2019