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[ACCRA] Ghana is set to embrace space science, with the inauguration of the country's first space science and technology institution.

The Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre (GSSTC), which opened on 2 May, aims to become an arena of excellence in space science and technology, through teaching, learning and space research commercialisation.

In his keynote message for centre's inauguration, the late President John Atta Mills said: "The expectation is that new jobs will be created as new materials and minerals are researched [leading to] the creation of whole new industries such as those related to the field of semiconductors and electronic engineering."

Prosper Ashilevi, a space scientist and chairman of GSSTC, said space science and technology will equip young Ghanaian scientists and researchers with capacity and skills in areas such as remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) monitoring, as well as in data interpretation and application.

Ashilevi said the centre's first flagship project, the Ghana Radio Astronomy Project, will involve the conversion of an abandoned Vodafone earth satellite station at Kuntunse, near Accra, into a radio astronomy telescope. Currently Ghanaian and South African experts are replacing worn out parts, to make the equipment operational again.

Ashilevi said that over the period 2012–2024, Ghana is seeking financial support of US$5 billion to develop infrastructure and human capacity in space science, from a global consortium of multinational institutions — including the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the bank HSBC — and through bilateral and multilateral agreements.

"We have [approached] the South African National Space Agency and NASA for space science exploration, and similar institutions in Japan and Britain for technical advice," Ashilevi told SciDev.Net.

The implementing agencies are Ghana's Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Abdul-Munin Yusif from the SGAC, said the organisation "plans to collaborate with South African universities, space science and technology institutions" to tap into the country's space technology expertise.

Francis Allotey, president of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Science (GAAS), said that "the project will offer a science [and] economic boom and other commercial opportunities".

Adelaide Asante, schedule officer at Ghana's environment ministry, confirmed that plans are now well advanced for the development of satellite ground stations for the reception of remote sensing data.

This article has been produced by our Sub-Saharan Africa desk.