Space Technology: Role and Progress in Addressing SDG Targets In Africa

By Mercy Ojoyi, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by 193 United Nations member states in 2015 to address a wide range of complex, interlinked and pressing issues, including food insecurity, energy challenges, water scarcity, poverty, education, gender equality, climate change and health. It is critical that we understand the importance of research, skill development and policy analysis in pursuing these goals in order to achieve the maximum benefits.

In Africa, the need for appropriate research, skills and policy-relevant analysis that directly address Sustainable Development Goals is greater than ever. Limited infrastructure, data and capacities; poor strategies; and inadequate research are all key impediments to making full use of recent advancements.

Limited progress has been made instituting local- and regional-level policies as well as developing infrastructure and capacity in most sub-Saharan African countries. Data validation and accessibility require urgent attention in order to support effective responses. The majority of these institutions are constrained by insufficient budgets, limited technical expertise and a lack of access to reliable information and knowledge. Africa’s Agenda 2063 Aspiration 6 is to achieve an Africa where development is people driven. Research backed by reliable data is requisite to producing empirical evidence for inclusive policies and programmes as well as institutions that deliberately mainstream comprehensive considerations into policy-relevant research, design and innovation in Africa while contributing to the successful attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. The African Union Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy 2024 advocates for innovative and holistic methods of technology transfer, information sharing and upgrading systems and processes to meet SDG needs across the continent.

Progress and Development of Space technology in Africa

Growth in space-based technologies presents a unique platform and offers an alternative reliable data source to field assessments, which are usually labour intensive. The African Union continues to make progress in enhancing its capacity and investment in earth observation technology. The African Union Commission has been a leader in supporting the use of space technology among member states through a series of meetings and commitments including the Dakar Declaration (2002), the Maputo Declaration (2006), the Lisbon Declaration (2007), and the Ouagadougou Declaration (2010). The African Union developed a space policy in 2016, promoting Africa’s capacity development in this area with a call for development of the African Space Agency and strategy development towards the realization of this goal. However, the Implementation Plan, coupled with funding constraints, poses some significant challenges.

In fact, several African countries already have their own national space agencies (e.g. the South African Space Agency, the Algerian Space Agency, Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences, Kenyan Space Agency, the National Remote Sensing Centre of Tunisia, National Space Research and Development Agency in Nigeria, and Morocco’s Royal Centre for Remote Sensing to name a few) with their own implementation plans in place. Overlaps and redundancies between the African Union’s Implementation Plans and the individual plans of national space agencies make it challenging to develop a single plan that meets the needs and targets of every country on the continent.

To help realize a coherent implementation plan for a single African Space Agency, which can deliver benefits to the entire continent, policies that benefit various socio-economic sectors including the environmental, food security, water, energy, fishery, marine, infrastructure and health sectors must be given prominence in order to promote various African governments’ contributions and investments. Of equal importance, the capacity of Africans in utilizing the data obtained from space satellites needs to be strengthened to meet the demands of the entire continent. At the present moment, the continent still lags behind with only a few trained experts in this area.

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