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Africa can’t afford not to go to space July 4, 2006

Posted by Robin Wolstenholme in Drivel.

Space was traditionally considered to be expensive and consequently, the poorest continent, Africa, was not involved in space programmes. In particular, Nigeria rejected space programmes entirely in 1976. However, in the last five years, low cost small satellites pioneered by SSTL in the UK have stimulated a series of space programmes in Africa.

These African space initiatives have resulted in great benefits to Africa with respect to space applications, capacity building and economic development. They have played an important role in international disaster monitoring and human global warming and climate change prevention efforts. They have also generated further demand for space assets, applications and services, particularly, telecommunications satellites to provide much needed infrastructure for economic development and bridging the digital divide.
Government support and the involvement of UK industry in the upcoming African Space Programme should enable a substantial return from investment in ARTES (communications payloads), MOSAIC (small satellites) and EO applications improving African lives with sustainable development.

Much focus has been given in Parliament, and in the media, of the importance of helping Africa find a sustainable way forward. British designed Earth observation instruments and satellites are monitoring the impact of Climate Change, natural resources, deforestation, crop failures and the impact of natural disasters on Africa’s exposed populations. Nigeria First, the website of the Nigerian Office of Public Communications http://www.nigeriafirst.org/article_1992.shtml  provides informaton on Nigeria’s use of space technology.

Satellite-based mapping can also support aid operations so that decision makers in Africa and around the world to shape the right policies to reduce poverty or plan crops in Africa. For example, NigeriaSat-1 http://www.sstl.co.uk/index.php?loc=112 provides medium-resolution imagery with daily worldwide revisit for monitoring disasters.




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