Africa's Emerging Space Industry: Challenges and Opportunities

06 Mar 2022 • Written by ovabor

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Africa's Emerging Space Industry: Challenges and Opportunities


The space industry is growing rapidly all over the world, and Africa is no exception.


There has been a recent upsurge in the Africa space industry, with many countries beginning to explore and utilize space-derived services and products. However, much of this activity is still outsourced to foreign countries [1], with few indigenous companies yet emerging [2]. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this:

Notwithstanding these challenges, I believe that African companies have an opportunity to contribute significantly to the space industry by focusing on low cost payloads, commoditized satellite bus, and launch service [3].

There is a great opportunity for African companies to develop low-cost payloads for small satellites. This could include instruments or sensors for earth observation, communications or navigation applications. By developing affordable payloads that are tailored specifically for small satellites, African companies can help reduce the overall cost of satellite missions and make it more feasible for smaller countries or organizations to undertake their own space initiatives [4]. In addition to developing low-cost payloads, African companies can also focus on providing commoditized satellite buses [5]. By offering standardized bus platforms that are adaptable for different mission requirements, African companies can help reduce development time and costs associated with new satellite projects. This would be especially beneficial in cases where multiple satellites need to be deployed as part of a larger constellation.

Launch service represents another area where Africa has a lot of potential when it comes to the space industry [6]. One reason for this is that many of its countries are located on or close to the equator. This makes it an ideal region for launching rockets, as the earth’s rotation is the fastest at the equator. Africa’s equatorial location gives it several key advantages for launching rockets into space:

As the global space industry is growing rapidly, with revenues expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030, African countries could become leading providers of rocket-launching services to other parts of the world. With eight unused launch sites [7] ripe for development into top-class space facilities, now is definitely the time for Africa to stake its claim in this rapidly growing industry.


Notes

[1] Some African countries and companies often turn to outsourcing their satellite projects, but this isn’t always the best option. In 2018, one country in Africa signed a $550-million deal to buy two Chinese communications satellites. The Chinese company also took a 50% equity stake in the government-owned entity responsible for managing satellite communications in the country. But upon closer inspection of the design specifications I found that those particular spacecraft were severely lacking when compared with more advanced models currently available on the market. In fact, I can assemble a team that could easily design 10 high quality communications, earth observation, weather monitoring, and IoT satellites for that same amount of money. And we would still have enough cash leftover to develop our very own launch vehicle.

[2] As a space enthusiast, I have been following the development of the space industry in Africa for a while. I believe the space industry in Africa is ripe with opportunity, and is a market that is currently not being fully addressed by existing products and services. If I were to start a space company today, my focus would be on providing low-cost, mass-produced payloads and satellite buses for the small satellite market in Africa. In addition, I would help customers broker launch services with launch providers in India and the U.S. I would also aim to develop a launch vehicle capable of launching small to mid-sized satellites into orbit. With this, I will help a lot of African countries and companies bring down the current expensive cost of satellite build and launch contracts as well as the costs incurred shipping payloads and satellites to make use of existing launch facilities in China, Russia, and the U.S. Basically starting a full stack space-as-a service company will provide much needed relief from high costs currently faced by many African entities who want to access and use space to provide services to their citizens. I am working hard to make this a reality.

[3] Developing new technologies is critical for any country looking to compete in today’s global economy. By developing homegrown capabilities in aerospace technology sectors such as launchers, satellites, ground systems etc., African countries can create an environment where innovative minds can thrive. This type of innovation will spur economic growth within these countries as well as help them keep up with advancements being made elsewhere.

[4] What if you could build your own sophisticated satellites at a fraction of that outsourcing price? That’s what I am proposing here: Instead of outsourcing your satellite project overseas, why not do it all yourself? With today’s technology it’s actually possible – and affordable – to create state-of-the art spacecraft right in your own backyard.

[5] A bus refers to the structural backbone of a spacecraft upon which all other elements are mounted.

[6] A strong aerospace sector requires good infrastructure – something most African nations already have thanks to recent investment in this area. With reliable roads, ports, airports etc., it becomes much easier for businesses within these industries to locate their operations near the launch sites.

[7] A rocket launch site is a facility from which rockets and missiles are launched.


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Robavo Space is committed to making space accessible and affordable for the benefit of all. We are working to reduce the cost of access to space, make it easier to get there, and enable a new era of innovation and exploration. Our goal is to make space open and available for everyone, from students and entrepreneurs to businesses and governments. With Robavo Space, everyone has a chance to participate in the exciting journey into outer space.” - Alexander C. Ovabor


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