Space technology experts, leaders, policymakers, and academics from Rwanda, Africa and the world are convening in Rwanda to discuss ways Africa can leverage and tap into the multibillion space industry for socioeconomic development.
The gathering is the first of its kind hosted by Rwanda Space Agency (RSA), the national entity created by the Government of Rwanda in 2021 to lead the country’s efforts to explore geospatial technologies that could fast-track socioeconomic development.
Speaking at the opening of the Rwanda Space Week Conference, which brought together individuals from diverse countries and fields, Paula Ingabire Musoni, Minister for ICT and Innovation, highlighted Rwanda’s initiatives aimed at leveraging space technologies.
She pointed out that Rwanda joining the rest of the globe to mark the world space week is not just a major milestone but also an opportunity to look back at the remarkable progress that has been registered in a short time since the country embarked on its ambitious efforts to explore space for development.
Ingabire said that Rwanda advancing exploration of space technologies for commercial purposes aligns with the country’s policy towards increasing private sector productivity, building entrepreneurial capabilities and innovation through ICT.
The Minister observed that what RSA has been able to achieve over the past three years is testament to the country’s vision to integrate technology in development and the future has never been brighter.
“The last three years since the establishment of the Rwanda Space Agency really shows the commitment that the government has in propelling our country to be at the forefront of specific knowledge,” she said, answering those who were left with a sense of curiosity when Rwanda launched the space agency.
Minister Ingabire said that the world in an era where specific knowledge is revolutionizing different sectors, from agriculture, healthcare to communication, transportation, education and many other key sectors and space is one of them.
Over the past few weeks, RSA conducted a nationwide awareness campaign where it explained to citizens and stakeholders Rwanda’s mission and efforts to explore space for socioeconomic development, something Minister Ingabire said was important to debunk some of the misconceptions around Rwanda’s endeavours.
She said that Rwanda has recognized the importance of investing in this technology for the betterment of our society and going by what RSA has achieved in a short term, the focus now is scaling the solutions.
Col. Francis Ngabo, CEO RSA said that Rwanda’s efforts align with the theme of the world space week 2023, which is “space and entrepreneurship.”
“In this view we, recognize the growing significance of the commercial space industry, and increasing opportunity for space entrepreneurship, as well as the new benefits of space developed by space entrepreneurs,”
“Statistics show that the space industry globally is worth 400 billion US dollars and it is expected to grow to One trillion US dollars by 2030. However, in Africa, the industry is estimated at only 19bn US dollars or less than 5% of the global industry,” Col. Ngabo said.
He pointed out that this low level of space industry development in Africa, should be seen as an opportunity for young African and Rwandan entrepreneurs to venture into the space business.
“To tap into this opportunity in the global business value chain, we are working with stakeholders and partners to put in place the right infrastructures to create a conducive environment for investment innovation in the space sector in Rwanda,” he said.
He observed that the conference, attended by players in the global space ecosystem, is an opportunity to share insights and expertise in different areas including satellite communication, space observation, remote sensing space strategy, space engineering and satellite manufacturing.
A collaborative effort
In the quest to explore space opportunities, Rwanda has inked collaborative deals with different players and stakeholders, including donors such as GIZ and partnerships with countries like Japan, China as well as several global satellite companies, such as OneWeb, SpaceX and others.
Norman Schräpel, Head of Cluster Digital Transformation at GIZ, which supports RSA in different aspects, said that over the past year, they have been able to identify different areas of collaboration.
During that period, he said they have learned a lot in terms of identifying the different space-based solutions to pursue and the next phase is to unpack the potential of RSA, urging all stakeholders to bring what they have on the table.
Among other areas where they collaborate with RSA is space observation, flood and landslide monitoring for disaster risk management and they are currently having discussions on other innovative areas of collaboration.
Through the different projects GIZ has with RSA, Schräpel said they will focus on showcase the potential commercial exploration of space and most of these areas, such as agriculture, health and communication, can have a huge trickle-down effect on the economy.