More than 20 African countries have established space programmes and at least 13 have developed satellites, according to the consultancy Space in Africa. But Africa’s burgeoning space industry is viewed with suspicion in some quarters. Right-wing British tabloids often attempt to manufacture outrage with stories about recipients of UK development funding having the temerity to launch their own space programmes. Rose Croshier, policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, notes that critics seek to present a binary choice for countries in the Global South: either they combat hunger, or they splurge on vanity projects in space. But, as she points out, satellite technology can directly contribute to development objectives. For example, satellite data can provide accurate crop forecasts that help people and governments prepare for food shortages. Satellites are also key to extending access to broadband internet. Investing in space infrastructure is “worth it” for Africa, Croshier insists, “as long these programmes are anchored to delivering a service to the civilian population”. One of the next milestones will be to establish a spaceport, enabling African satellites to launch from African soil. This priority will become increasingly urgent in the coming years. Existing facilities around the world are under growing pressure due to ever-increasing demand. Satellite consultancy Euroconsult predicted in a report last December that the next decade will see 17,000 satellite launches, a fourfold increase on the previous 10 years. Although South Africa leads the continent in building satellites, there are few signs that it is keen on a spaceport. Instead, it is Kenya that has a head start in the race to host the continent’s first major launch facility.
SOURCE: AFRICAN BUSINESS