Space Science and Manufacturing in Africa

For a continent that was late to the space race, Africa’s space ecosystems are maturing at an interesting time and catalyzing the manufacturing sectors.

Can space science spur African manufacturing? I think so.

Over the last decade, African investment in space technology has progressively increased, driven by the frequent implementation of earth observation development programs.

On a regional scale, much has been said about the Nigerian Space Sector and the promise it holds — both as a driver for African space innovation, as well as a platform to accelerate advances in local industries such as telecommunications, media, agriculture and security.

Although the continent’s capabilities in building satellite technologies have advanced (Nigeria has launched five satellites since 2003, with three Earth Observation and Communication Satellites currently in operation), opening up opportunities for better understanding of the country’s rapid urbanization, population growth and food security issues, incremental progress could be accelerated even further.

Classic space economies such as the US and Europe, have grown due to governmental programs aimed at spurring innovation via public grants and funding instruments, taking greater risks as well as supporting open-ended research activities. This has inspired private sector actors to follow suit and further catalyzed innovation cycles in these economies.

Across Africa, a new space industry is emerging. It is characterized by bottom-up innovation and driven by passionate ecosystem stakeholders, supported through a community-led approach. With major barriers to global space participation lowered over the past decade (driven largely by the commoditization of space technology and other factors), this is the right time for strong platforms that inspire not just the community and the next generation, but ultimately provide lessons and examples for the African governments to catalyze their manufacturing sectors.

NASA’s Space Apps programs have played a leading role in galvanizing local space stakeholders and inspiring community-led projects with local application. On the continent, these sorts of initiatives are building awareness and inclusion for new technologies that are disrupting the space sector while supporting local manufacturing.

About the Author

Oluseye Soyode -Johnson is the African Technology Foundation’s Regional Partner for Africa. He is also the Country Facilitator for Space Apps Nigeria, and has been responsible for implementing nationwide training and development programs since 2014. Space Apps Nigeria’s mission is to infuse cutting edge capacity-building programs into the fabric of Nigerian society, and drive global innovation participation that leads to massive economic growth and youth empowerment, in the short-to-medium term.

This article is featured on the State of Play report. To receive a free copy of the report click here.