African Space Agency begins ambitious mission to drive financial growth

Written by Staff Writer at CNN For when others stare back from above, Africa’s adventurers are going to be more illuminated. The continent is making solid progress on satellite technology, helping scientists track hurricanes…

African Space Agency begins ambitious mission to drive financial growth

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

For when others stare back from above, Africa’s adventurers are going to be more illuminated.

The continent is making solid progress on satellite technology, helping scientists track hurricanes and the demarcation of borders, in addition to the mapping and remote sensing of national parks and forest. It’s part of a concerted effort that might one day allow African nations to build better roads and ports, monitor the health of crop and animal populations, and more.

That’s why experts have created this 4D animated history of the continent’s space program .

“Over the course of our history, if you’re really going to know Africa you need to look at Africa’s relationship with space, rather than just go on aerial photography,” Peter Andrew Harrison, the head of communication at Mauritius’ Phares Institute, which recently hosted an awards ceremony for Africa’s leading space experts, said ahead of the ceremony.

What’s it mean for Africa?

“The other big issue here is of course trade. Two years ago, the U.S. pulled out of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is a development deal that it agreed to with African countries,” Harrison said.

The AGOA allows businesses to benefit from duty-free access to the American market. Without the deal, it will be tougher for African companies to profit from their potential access to American markets.

After the U.S. pullout, many African nations have already revised their trade agreements to reflect their greater reliance on bilateral trade and competition from European companies that have deep pockets and stronger influence in the U.S.

Such a move hasn’t slowed African countries from investing heavily in space technology.

About 8% of the world’s total revenue generated from the sale of communications satellites comes from African countries, including a significant number from South Africa, an official at Phares Institute said.

“The contribution that Europe makes to that is about 25% of the share on the whole, but South Africa is actually the number one supplier in Africa,” he said.

The African Space Agency was set up in 2006 and its first satellite was launched in 2009.

The Association of Space Explorers of Africa has also been instrumental in Africa’s space program, with its researchers making advancements and creating jobs.

“We even have a satellite-hunting satellite that uses radar, which is a very powerful technology that helps on issues such as land boundaries,” Phares Institute’s Harrison said.

“So we’re going to see one for Ghana or one for Benin one day.”

Africa’s space program is also aimed at tracking its increasing threat of natural disasters, as climate change increases the frequency and severity of such extreme weather events.

A chart provided by the Phares Institute shows a map of the African continent’s space program over the past 20 years. Credit: Phares Institute

“When you think about a tropical storm or a hurricane, particularly a category five or category four, when you see where that’s happening on the continent, a lot of countries get affected by these very severe events. But it’s difficult to track hurricanes from space and it’s difficult to know where the boundaries of the territory are when these storms cross national borders,” Dr. Faustino Jose-Miró, a Phares Institute colleague and co-director of its meteorology department, said.

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