African countries advance plans for an integrated regional space programme by Wallace Mawire     20140623
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African countries are upping the pace for the setting up of an African Regional Space programme, as evidenced by the recent second taskforce meeting of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) in Harare.

The meeting witnessed the nomination of taskforce chairs for the programme, which will be led by Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria and Algeria.

Although most of the sessions were closed to the media, the meeting provided updates on the status of the African Regional Space programme and a draft African Space Policy was presented. According to Dr Joseph Mukabana, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Director of the Regional Office for Africa said the Zimbabwean government, which is the current bureau chair of the AMCOMET, will later this year forward the recommendations on the programme from the meeting to the ordinary session of the African Union.

As shown by documents released at the AMCOMET meeting, the African Space policy is premised on the fact that the lack of resource mobilisation, integrated ownership and leadership and a significant industrial sector on the African continent is a critical impediment that hinders inclusive economic growth and social development.

“To unblock these impediments a paradigm shift is required in the way things are done to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens,” says the Chair of the AUC in a foreword in the draft space policy. The chair says the realisation of the AU vision must be premised on self-reliance, regional integration, and industrialisation and enhanced partnerships.

It is reported that a useful framework for the purpose is Agenda 2063 whose key drivers are; promoting science, technology and innovation, investing in human capital development, managing natural resources in a sustainable manner, effective private and public sector development and innovative resource mobilisation.

The draft policy outlines the benefits of space science and technology noting that humanity is facing major challenges in ensuring the adequate provision of basic necessities such as food, shelter, a clean and healthy environment and proper education for the growing population of planet earth.

It envisages the use of earth observation and remote sensing satellites to gather information about the nature and condition of the earth’s land, sea and atmosphere. 

The policy drivers for an African space programme will see the use of space science and technology to derive optimal socio-economic benefits that both improves the quality of lives and creates wealth for Africans.

It will also result in developing and maintaining indigenous infrastructure, human capital and capabilities that service an African market which caters for the geo-spatial and space information needs of the African continent.

Some of the draft policy objectives include addressing user needs, accessing space services, developing the regional market, adopting good governance and management coordinating the African space arena and promoting international co-operation.

On accessing space services, the draft envisages the use of existing space infrastructure, promoting capacity building for the development of space services, adopting data-sharing protocols, developing and increasing the space asset base and establishing regional and sub-regional centres.

The policy outlines the promotion of public private partnerships, the committing of funds to optimise and improve effectiveness, harmonisation and standardisation of all infrastructure and establishment of communities of practice.

The draft says that the African space policy is a guiding framework for the formalisation of the African space agenda and will need to be complemented by an African space strategy and an implementation plan to give effect to the policy.

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