i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

How affordable is Space Science and Technology?

Posted by Simon Adebola on June 2, 2008

Can Africa afford space technology? This is a question we would seek to address considering the fact that at first glance the negative response seems like the obvious way to go. However, with the level of international commitment shown towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and recent moves by ESA, CNES, NASA, CSA, ISRO, and other space agencies in making the benefits of satellite applications available to developing countries, the adoption of space technologies by African nations is no longer an uphill task. Also the institution of the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters” makes space technology readily available in the event of catastrophes. The African Union and NEPAD have also intensified collaborative efforts within the continent to develop capacity in the development and utilization of space technologies in Africa. The greatest hindrance thus would not be financial but the lack of political will on the part of the governments of such countries.

The example of the Indian Space program is a model for all developing nations. India has risen to become a major space power with end to end capability in space science and technology (SST). The Indian space program is primarily focused on utilizing space technologies for development and they are truly a success at that. With applications in education, healthcare, agriculture, water resources management, disaster mitigation, telecommunications etc. all based on locally developed technology. They are a proof of how commitment, collaboration and hard work can improve the lot of a people.

There are existing collaborations that monitor diseases using space technology, e.g. the Centre for Geographic Medicine Research, at the Kenya Medical Research Institute supported by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Oxford, has been involved in using space technology in research into diseases such as malaria, rift valley fever, dengue fever and other mosquito transmitted diseases. The French Space agency (CNES) have also had collaborations with Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger in epidemiologic research. Many other opportunities for collaboration exist under various international agreements.

These collaborations do not exclude the need for governments to prioritize the development of science and technology education, research and development initiatives. It is evident that against this backdrop of strong and growing international support, such progressive initiatives will be born into an environment in which they are likely to get both the institutional and also the human resource support that they need to succeed.

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