KENYA COMMENDED FOR SUCCESSFUL SPACE EXPO.

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Defense Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale. /PHOTO COURTESY SPA.

BY SAM ALFAN.

The Ministry of Defense and Kenya Space Agency has called for increased investment in the domestic space sector.

The agency made the sentiments during the second Space Expo and Conference themed space technologies for societal benefits.

The agency said there is need for an enabling environment to enhance innovation and growth of startups to take advantage of the USD 1.8 trillion global space economy by 2035. 

Kenya, said the agency, is an emerging and developing space faring nation with a budding thriving domestic space ecosystem replete with numerous players on the downstream applications of space technologies. 

“It has a strategic geographical position along the equator that is advantageous for satellite launch activities. These factors make it a crucial player in the future of Space exploration with great potential to attract foreign direct investment,” says the agency. 

The global space economy is projected to grow from USD 635 billion in 2023 to USD 1.8 trillion in 2035.

The second edition of the Kenya Space Expo and Conference 2024 held at the Edge Convention Centre from 18 to 20 June 2024, attracted more than 400 delegates drawn from Kenya and at least 12 other nations from around the world. 

The conference attracted exhibitors from leading companies in the global space industry with companies from US, China, India, Italy, UK, France, Spain, Bulgaria and South Africa.

There were also delegates from India, Italy, China, US, UK, France, Spain, Bulgaria, Egypt, South Africa and Uganda.

The delegates commended Kenya and KSA for hosting the highly successful conference and called upon the government to institute a sound policy, legal and regulatory framework that promotes local and foreign direct investment, and the growth of a thriving domestic space industry in the country. 

The thee-day Space Expo and Conference was officially opened by the Cabinet Secretary for Defense, Aden Duale, who announced 15 fully paid PhD scholarships on Earth Observation to Kenyan nationals to commence their studies in September this year through support from the Italian Republic.

Kenya is currently pursuing collaboration opportunities on peaceful uses of outer space with several regional and international partners. Those in the region include Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Sudan.

“These are targeted at developing indigenous capacity in space systems engineering and enhanced utilization of space services, technologies and applications in socioeconomic development through joint projects.

“For instance, through partnership with Egypt and Uganda, an imaging system that will be hosted on the International Space Station for monitoring climate change has been developed.” says the agency. 

The CS also announced plans to establish a Centre for Earth Observation at the Luigi Broglio Malindi Space Centre in Malindi, as well as an International Training Centre for Space Education and a Centre for Cubesat Development in partnership with the Italian Space Agency. 

“The centres will enhance national and regional capabilities through training and apprenticeship of the next generation of space professionals,” says CS Duale. 

The KSA is also ready to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to strengthen collaboration on peaceful uses of outer space with India.

The Indian High Commissioner to Kenya, Amb. Namgya Khampa, shared lessons for Kenya from India’s journey in Space which is characterised by high science and frugal engineering.

“India has had high returns on dollars invented, for instance, the mission to the South pole of the moon cost USD 75million largely due to our policy on frugal engineering by ISRO”. 

The Conference made recommendations for the government to support the private sector in development of innovations for downstream applications considering the great potential for data commercialization across different sectors.

Speaking on one of the panels, Telkom CEO, Eng. Mugo Kibati called for greater public awareness to promote the sector, adding that the tele-communication sector was ready to forge partnerships with the Kenya Space Agency to address specific needs.

Funding models and strategies were explored, and recommendations from other countries made to the KSA and the Government of Kenya on approaches needed to de-risk the sector.  

Key takeaways also included a call to boost national capability in space science especially in breaking barriers for entry for women and promotion of STEM in early education.

According to the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), women constitute only 20-22% of professionals in the space industry globally.

 KSA announced that Kenya is set to host a Space4Women Global Expert meeting alongside UNOOSA in November 2024 and called for wider participation of women and girls in the advancement, utilization, and development of space science, technologies, and applications in Kenya.

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