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[NAIROBI] African countries need to explore space science applications and services to bolster socioeconomic development, experts say.

Experts attending the International Space Forum held in Kenya last month (13 February) discussed the potential that space technology could provide to the continent grappling with issues such as energy, security, diseases, poverty, climate change shocks, access to clean water, job creation, industrialisation and environmental challenges.

“Through space technology African farmers should be able to know the status of their soils.”

Raychelle Omamo, Ministry of Defence

The event, which was convened by the Kenyan Ministry of Defence in partnership with International Astronautical Federation and the Italian Space Agency, brought together experts from governments, academia and research institutions.

According to Raychelle Omamo, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for defence, space applications and services should be leveraged to ensure a peaceful and secure continent, manage natural resources, and to create wealth for harmony and socioeconomic transformation.

“Through space technology African farmers should be able to know the status of their soils and even know what needs to be done for better yields,” notes Omamo, adding that space technology should help farmers identify impending threats to their crops.

She added that Kenya will make agriculture a key focus in its implementation of space operations this year.

Omamo explains that telecommunication satellites could help meteorological departments in gathering information to accurately predict weather patterns to help African governments create relevant plans.

John Kelemu, director of technical services at Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development, Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that space science systems and applications such as earth observation could improve livelihoods of people and the continent needs to invest in space technology. For example, as meteorological departments predict weather patterns in advance, farmers could cultivate their fields early enough or take the correct measures for preparations regarding the weather outcomes to help avoid losses.

“African governments need to create partnerships among countries with different levels of space knowledge,” explains Kelemu. This would help them in building capacity, sharing and disseminating information on space knowledge and technology transfer.”
 
He notes that there is also the need to consider the existing space centres in Africa as starting points for creating networks.

“Space science experts need to raise awareness [among] the decision-makers on the importance of space technology applications in addressing some of the socio-economic development issues in African countries,” Kelemu adds.
 
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.