Space benefits outweigh the cost says minister

October 28th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


Delivering the opening address at the recent African Association of Remote Sensing of the environment (AARSE)  in Johannesburg Naladi Pandor,  minister of science and technology said that the extraordinary social and economic benefits we see  from space  activity are achieved at a very small percentage of global GDP – less than 0,5% but the benefits we derive are much greater.

Minister Pandor touring the exhibition associated with AARSE Conference

Minister Naledi Pandor touring the exhibition at the AARSE conference.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Space Economy at a Glance (2014) the space economy generated USD 256,2-billion in revenue in 2013. Most of this came from consumer services like satellite television, but a third came from the space manufacturing supply chain, and under 10% from satellite operators.

“Of course the OECD countries dominate the space economy. But times are changing. The BRICS countries have invested substantially in recent years. India, China and Russian are now leading contributors to the space economy”, the minister said.

“Now it’s Africa’s turn. We have to talk about space, coordinate our activities, and invest for the future. For Africa to catch up with OECD countries, African governments and relevant institutions have to increase investments and awareness of the use of space for decision making processes. We must stimulate an African dialogue on the use of space for development, building African capacity in science and technology, and promoting continental coordination of space activities.”

The minister said that the dialogue and coordination is beginning to yield positive results as can be seen in the emergence of space agencies in Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa. These developments have increased the appetite of African countries for developing space assets.

“The African Space Policy and Strategy currently being developed by the African Union Commission through the African Ministers Committee on Science and Technology (AMCOST), and continental initiatives such as the Pan African University for Space Science and Technology and AfriGEOSS clearly show Africa’s appetite for space.”

AfriGEOSS aims to provide the necessary framework for African countries and organisations as well as international partners to access and leverage on-going local and international bilateral and multilateral Earth Observation(EO)-based initiatives across Africa, thereby creating synergies and minimising duplication for the benefit of the continent.

AfriGEOSS aims to strengthen the link between the current GEO activities for establishing a coordinated global Earth observation system of systems with existing capabilities and initiatives in Africa. It provides the necessary framework for countries and organisations to access and leverage on-going bilateral and multilateral EO-based initiatives across Africa, thereby creating synergies and minimising duplication for the benefit of the entire continent.

South Africa has a long history in space science and technology. However, it was only a few years ago that South Africa established a space agency (SANSA). The Minister cited three main objectives for SANSA :

“The first objective is to capture a share of the global market for small to medium-sized space systems. We have some legacy space facilities that are unique in Africa. These include a satellite assembly, test and integration facility.  We are keen to collaborate with other African space-faring nations and to offer our experiences and facilities to those African countries that wish to develop their indigenous space capabilities.

“The second objective is to improve decision making through the integration of space-based systems with ground-based systems for providing data. Our Spsace Strategy (2011) complements our national Earth Observation Strategy (2007), which coordinates all the earth observation activities of the government, science councils and academic institutions. The National Space Strategy and Earth Observation Strategy serve a number of different government departments and help them to fulfil their respective mandates through the provision of timely and relevant data.

“The third objective is to develop applications for the provision of geospatial, telecommunications, timing and positioning products and services. Here we are working to develop our capabilities in earth observation, communication and position, timing, and navigation. But clearly space science plays a huge role in the process of understanding climate change, its causes and consequences. We are particularly interested in tele-medicine and tele-education and we have only just begun to tap the possibilities.”

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