Parliament has approved a law establishing the country’s space agency which will solely be charged with leveraging Rwanda’s ambition to tap into the lucrative Global space economy.
Space technology and data economy today accounts for over $400billion globally while in Africa the sector accounts for $7million and is projected to grow to exceed $10 billion by 2024.
Among the first beneficiaries of Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) activities, the committee said will include local universities, National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA) among others.
Given this background, parliament this March 9, 2021 voted to approve the 24-article bill, which has been under discussion in the committee in charge of education, technology, culture and youth in consultation with the ministry of ICT and Innovation.
RSA is expected to be an independent institution that will be tasked with ensuring Rwanda builds and benefits from space technology based on the already established achievements in technology development in the country.
Rwanda has been active in Space Science and Technology to draft the African Space Policy and Strategy and launched its first satellite in 2019 in collaboration with Japan.
Rwanda has particularly taken advantage of advancement in earth observation technologies as well as increased accessibility and affordability of data driving from space to improve the management of natural resources, enhance disaster monitoring and preparedness, environmental protection and management;
For example, Rwanda works with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in storing observatory centre for detecting pollution and upper gases. Aviation, clean based navigation, and infrastructures that support space organizations.
With 96% 5G internet coverage, Rwanda has invested in Health care services, e-services like telemedicine to collect and deliver blood to rural areas using drone technology.
The country is currently developing a national data reproduction policy to complement other already adopted policies such as open data and smart Rwanda master plan.
The agency was supposed to be in place by July 2020, however this plan looks to have been changed after the committee learnt from the ministry that a policy to inform the activities of the agency is still underway and dependent on the bill approval.
However, in the committee meeting with the ministry, parliament was informed that the RSA “road map” will start with using space data and images to profile land usage, construction of “Ground Station Infrastructures” to capture satellite images locally which will be constructed in Rwamagana district under a signed contract between NGALI group of Rwanda and GlobalStar (USA).
The road map will also see several Rwandans trained in space technology programs in the USA, and Israel so as to return home and build the existing efforts.
In a key twist, the parliament also learnt that RSA will manage all Space data collected in public and private institutions and in case of selling this data, the agency will first analyze it before its distributed or sold on the local market.
The RSA bill will have to be gazetted to take immediate effect.
If established, RSA will join few countries in Africa that have space agencies such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.