On 10th July, Zimbabwe launched its space agency to enhance the use of space technology for sustainable development.
Africa’s space technology is spearheaded by Nigeria and South Africa. Both countries have recognised the usefulness of satellites for earth observation, telecommunications and advancing space science. They have funded and overseen a number of launches.
South Africa launched its first satellite, SUNSAT, in 1999. A second, SumbandilaSat, was launched from Kazakhstan in 2009. A year later, South Africa formed its National Space Agency, SANSA. In 2013, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology launched South Africa’s first CubeSat – a type of nano-satellite, known as ZACUBE-1.In early 2015, the Kondor-E satellite built for South Africa in Russia was launched into orbit. It provides all-weather, day-and-night radar imagery for the South African military.
Nigeria has used its satellites to monitor the oil-rich Niger Delta . Its satellites have also been used in election monitoring, providing crucial information about voters who may otherwise have been overlooked by poll workers.In 2014, Nigeria used its SatX and Sat 2 to monitor Boko Haram’s movements and to help find the 273 girls it had abducted.
Ghana launched its Space Science and Technology Centrein 2012. Kenya started its space programme in 2012. Kenya’s geographic position on the equator makes it ideal to launch satellites into geostationary and other orbits.Egypt launched its first satellite in 2007 for scientific research, but has run into recent concerns over human and financial resources.
North African nations are no strangers to space and satellites. Algeria, which established its space agency in 2002, launched five disaster monitoring microsatellites in the 2000s, and an earth observation satellite in 2010. The latter was launched from Chennai, India.
Zimbabwe on Tuesday launched a National Space Agency intended to focus on using satellites to advance geospatial science, earth observation and satellite communication systems.
The Zimbabwean president said, “This initiative is expected to enhance Zimbabwe’s capabilities in global discourses on generation, access, use and regulation of the application of space technology and innovation for sustainable development.”Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in November, has vowed to tackle mass unemployment by luring back foreign investment and investing in infrastructure.He has pledged to develop Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy by 2030.Zimbabwe’s economy faces formidable challenges after Mugabe oversaw land seizures that saw agricultural output crash and the national currency abandoned after hyperinflation wiped out savings. In the presidential contest, Mnangagwa faces opposition from MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa.
Zimbabwe has been lagging behind regional countries and the world at large in terms of technological development. Although the country is predicated on mining and agriculture, a lot is still to be done in terms of mapping and mineral exploration.
The Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) will be used to identify areas where the prevalence of minerals is high.Official data indicates that Zimbabwe is actively mining only 10 out of a possible 60 minerals. The country last carried full-scale exploration prior to independence in 1980.Exploration data is considered critical towards attracting investors and determining the amount of resources to be committed towards exploiting a mineral.
Another core focus of the space agency will be using satellites to further renewable energy mapping for the country.The space agency is also expected to contribute in the counting of wildlife population as the country looks for ways of protecting wildlife, a critical component of the tourism industry.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Amon Murwira said establishment of ZINGSA would take a phased approach."We know exactly what we are doing, we know exactly where we are going, we know that it will be a phased approach and we know that it will be successful," he said. Venturing into space technology, the minister said, would open doors for skilled Zimbabweans living outside the country to come back and assist in building the industry.
The University of Zimbabwe’s Caleb Maguranyanga said the southern African nation had now joined the emerging Space Nations through the establishment of its own Agency.“Gone are the days of space being accessible only by agencies backed by budgets of billion dollars,” said Maguranyanga.
Our assessment is that Zimbabwe’s Space Agency is a step forward in re-engineering the country’s economic conditions. We feel that strategically investing in Space technology has given President Mnangagwa a head start in the presidential elections. We believe that ZINGSA will be instrumental in promoting sustainability of Zimbabwe’s rich natural resources.