How can space science and Academia assist Africa to meet its Sustainable Development Goals? A report of Mokhtar Sellami

On February 13th the International Space Forum took place in Kenya. The participants of the forum discussed the question "How can space science and academia assist Africa to meet its Sustainable Development Goals?". They came from 31 African countries and 11 international organisations/space agencies which underlines the importance of the event. Mokthar Sellami, our colleague on site from Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Algeria, gives us a brief insight into the event.

Cooperation for fostering space science, technology and innovation, the African Chapter, was co-organised by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in Nairobi (Kenya), on 13 February 2018. This Space Forum at ministerial level involved 31 African nations and 11 international organisations and space agencies. The programme already starts at 12 February by an evening welcome reception at the Italian Ambassador’s Residence in Nairobi. First discussions were introduced informally, on how Space Science and Education can support the understanding and exploitation of Space benefits for Africa’s socio-economic development and how to develop local capacities, abilities and space partnerships.

The 13th February after accreditation of the delegations at the Radisson Blu Hotel, the International Space Forum 2017 was opened by welcome remarks addressed by Kenyan authorities, the President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and the President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

They expressed their gladness and welcomed participants to the 2nd edition of the International Space Forum at Ministerial Level, encouraging African Ministers, Academia and Space Agencies for a global discussion on contemporary space topics with a particular mention on how to improve capacity building initiatives, enhance environmental sustainability, and promote space partnerships.

The Forum, they mention, will feature a comprehensive programme offering keynote speeches on how to develop high-level technical and scientific knowledge and to contribute to achieving Africa’s goal of self- reliance; how to create a culture of ecological integrity and equitable allocation of the available resources for sustainable development; and how to build fair and mutually beneficial space partnerships among countries with different levels of space knowledge.

The first keynote speech was devoted to Capacity Building. It is obvious that Capacity building in this arena represents an opportunity for participants to develop collaboration for a high-level technical and scientific knowledge in Africa, which will contribute to achieving Africa's goal of self-reliance. Networking amongst African Universities and Academia would better support Space Capacity Building by pooling and coordinating the existing resources and by disseminating knowledge among all African countries.

The conference delivered by Dr. Valanathan Munsami, Chair, African Union Working Group on Space and Chief Executive Officer, South African National Space Agency et (SANSA) was on «Capacity Development in Space Science and Technology on the African Continent».

First he introduced the momentum toward the formalisation of an African space programme emanating from the approval of an African Space Strategy and African Space Policy by African Heads of State at the January 2016 African Union Summit. In addition, work is being undertaken in defining an appropriate governance framework and an implementation plan for a continental space programme. In this regard, recent discussions and initiatives have motivated for the need to establish an African Space Agency. Whilst these instruments represent a top down approach for ensuring effective implementation of an African space programme, there is also recognition for a bottom up approach where national space agencies are positioned and capacitated to assist in implementing an African space programme.

There are moves afoot to establish a Committee of African Space Institutions to promote a collective bottom-up approach. Both these approaches must be aligned to ensure implementation efficiencies and economics of scale. However, on both fronts appropriate capacity and capabilities must be strengthened and/or developed, at three different levels, namely, individual (for creating the appropriate skills and expertise), organisational (for strengthening organisational efficiencies and effectiveness), and continental (for promoting collaboration and minimising unnecessary duplication).

Statements by head of delegation of Kenya, Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and Rwanda, followed the conference.

The second keynote speech was devoted to Environmental Sustainability. It is of high evidence that ecological integrity and equitable allocation of the available resources are closely linked to the sustainable development in Africa. Earth observation satellites, including navigation and telecommunication satellites, are precious tools for gathering information and protecting the environment. Prof. Dr. Jan Woerner, Director General European Space Agency (ESA) and IAF Vice-President, ensured that by Environmental Sustainability, demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing our capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future, is at the core of several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). And ESA actively promotes the use of space for achieving these UN SDG, as it recognises the important role that space programmes, applications or services play for achieving sustainable development worldwide. Over the past few years, ESA has identified specific activities that support the SDG for various geographical areas including Africa and is developing a coordinated approach across Directorates towards the main actors of development.

Furthermore, ESA cooperates with African partners in a wide range of activities including thematic projects served by the Agency’s Earth observation satellite data and the operations of downrange telemetry ground stations, in particular in Malindi, Kenya.The keynote speaker provided examples of ESA’s activities in Africa, focusing on Environmental Sustainability, and presents an initiative regarding Africa in view of ESA’s Council at Ministerial level to be held by the end of next year.

Statements by head of delegation of Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, South Soudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe followed the conference.

The third keynote speech was on space partnerships that should be based on a fair and mutually beneficial approach and would also contribute to foster regional collaboration to ensure security, peace and stability. Dr. Simonetta di Pippo, Director, United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), explained that outer space is the common heritage of all humankind, and international cooperation in the use of space is vital to ensure its security, safety and sustainability. Nations that may political differences work together for scientific progress to better understand the universe around us. While we may disagree on Earth, she wrote, what we can achieve in space is inspiring. Space unites us towards common goals. This is what she calls «space diplomacy». UNOOSA acts as a global facilitator of the international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space, and promotes and enables the use of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development, particularly the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Partnership between the Office and Member States, NGOs, private actors and other stakeholders are vital to UNOOSA’s work in these areas.

Statements by head of agencies and institutions were then delivered by  the ASI (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana), the CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales), the CONAE (Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales), the DLR (German Aerospace Center), the ESA (European Sace Agency), the ECSL (European Centre for Space Law),  the IISL (International Institute of Space Law), and the SGAC (Space Generation Advisory Council).

For the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Prof. Dr. Pascale EHRENFREUND, Chair of the Executive Board, DLR, declared that the DLR and the entire German space industry are happy to contribute to the development of the African continent by realising space-based applications. DLR with its research activities, contributes to developing solutions to the urgent problems faced by many African countries. These range from work on the global urban footprint and megacities, through research into the consequences of climate change, to disaster management.

After discussions, the participants adopted the following Africain Page to be added to the Trento Space Statement.


2nd International Space Forum (ISF) 2017 at Ministerial level - The African Chapter
"Space Science and Academia for Sustainable Development in Africa”

On February 13, 2018, the Kenyan Minister of Defense, Ministries of Science, University and Research, Space Authorities, Space Agencies, representatives from International Space Organisations and senior space experts from over 40 countries met in Nairobi (Kenya), under the auspices of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Kenyan Ministry of Defence, for open and productive discussions on how space science and education can support the understanding and exploitation of space benefits for Africa’s socio-economic development.

The 1st Ministerial International Space Forum was jointly organised by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and the International Academy of Astronautics (lAA) under the mandate of the IAF Vice President for Science and Academia relations, in Trento (Italy), where 42 governmental delegations attended and adopted the Trento Space Statement.

In Nairobi, delegates, representatives of academia and experts exchanged views, shared experiences and made statements, which declared, inter alia, that:

  • Space is a global and multidisciplinary system requiring high—level technical and scientific knowledge, in both upstream and downstream areas;
  • Universities and academia constitute a worldwide network of privileged knowledge that could support the design, development and exploitation of space programs, regardless of any geographical location;
  • African universities and academia need to become part of the global space network to benefit from scientific and technological knowledge;
  • Space applications and services should be leveraged to protelct the African environment, ensure a peaceful and secure continent, manage natural resources, manage diversity so as to convert it into a source of wealth, harmony and socio-economic transformation.

Delegations heard and considered presentations from space experts on three main topics:

  • Capacity Building: Space disciplines represent an opportunity to develop high-level technical and scientific knowledge in Africa, which will contribute both to the achievement of Africa’s self—reliance and the attainment of Africa’s Agenda 2063;
  • Environmental Sustainability: Ecological integrity and an equitable allocation of the available resources are closely linked to sustainable development in Africa. Earth observation, navigation and telecommunication satellites, are precious tools for gathering information and protecting the environment;
  • Space Partnerships: Partnerships and collaborations among countries with different levels of space knowledge would support dissemination of space knowledge and technology transfer. Partnerships with the private sector will help leverage the necessary funds for a vibrant space enterprise, reserving a key role to the academia, so as to ensure the success of a quad-helix model of economic growth within the continent.

Governmental representatives and delegates noted that:

  • Space activities, services and technologies could support the implementation of the Africa Agenda 2063;
  • Capacity Building in space is a key to develop high-level technical and scientific knowledge in Africa;
  • Investments in indigenous human capacity is a priority objective;
  • Space cooperation would be a driver for Capacity Building and sustainable development in Africa.

Ministries, Heads of delegations, governmental representatives and experts welcomed the 2nd International Space Forum 2017 — The African Chapter — highlighting the importance of considering the following points as the first results of discussions in Nairobi:

  • Involvement of all African countries at science, university and research level could increase the number of professionals and experts in the Space sector;
  • Networking amongst African universities and academia would better support space capacity building by pooling and coordinating the existing resources and by disseminating knowledge among all African countries;
  • Consider the existing space centres and facilities in Africa as the starting point assets, upon which to build up a network of infrastructures to develop a sustainable Capacity Building programme and road map;
  • The International Center for Space Education in Africa, located at the Broglio Space Center (BSC) in Malindi (Kenya), could collect the African needs and propose space application activities and training for the development of the African Capacity Building to achieve the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for sustainable development;
  • The African Resource Management Satellite Constellation (ARMSC) is an appropriate continental initiative that could be relied on to address Environmental Sustainability;
  • Intra-Africa and international partnerships should be leveraged on a mutually beneficial basis to foster regional collaboration and to ensure security, peace and stability. The proposed African Space Agency would represent a key institution in this endeavour;
  • The second International Space Forum in Nairobi will contribute to UNISPACE+50 and to the implementation of the goals of the UN Agenda 2030.

The African delegations expressed the wish to replicate this space forum model at a regional level within Africa to enhance participation by local universities, scientific communities, space experts and representatives from the private sector, as this will complement an existing initiative, namely the African Leadership Conference (ALC) on Space Science and Technology.


Director of Technological Development and Innovation
Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Algeria
Email:, Mobile : +213661580024