• Lauren Napier

Space Applications Supporting African Sustainable Development

This post is part of our Space and Sustainability Programme

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In January, the Centre for a Spacefaring Civilization submitted Written Evidence[1] to the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee on their inquiry over the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa for prosperity, peace and development cooperation. As the only space related written evidence, we supported the use of space applications to aid the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on Africa. While this is not new information for the space community, as the Space4SDGs initiative has been active for some time now, the use of space to aid SDGs is not always a known concept in the wider political community which is why we have brought this idea to the UK House of Lords for consideration.



We came up with 5 recommendations that would relate to the UK initiatives in Africa as related to SDGs, the African Union 2063 Agenda, and the Space4SDGs.


  1. Initiate cooperation with the African Union and its member states using the space sector as a platform.

  2. Frame cooperation in terms of capacity building and workforce development.

  3. Engage with African partners to encourage women, young people and disabled persons to participate in space related training and jobs.

  4. Engage with African partners in global space governance fora.

  5. Work to ensure certainty for post IPP (UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme) 2022 initiatives.

Keeping our recommendations in mind, in February the 57th Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) have deliberated over various related issues such as the Space2030 Agenda, the Long-Term Sustainability (LTS) Guidelines and moving forward toward LTS 2.0 under Agenda Item 13, as well as Agenda Item 6 on space technology for sustainable socioeconomic development. It was mentioned by the United Kingdom that they are implementing the LTS Guidelines and would be “happy, and keen, to engage and collaborate with other nations who have similar aspirations”[2]as well as “exchange experience and guidance.”[3]This rhetoric supports their UK Space Agency (UKSA) IPP initiative as well as their drive to work with Sub-Saharan African on development cooperation. Thus it is a natural connection to see that different parts of the UK government are actually working on similar concepts and there is room for space applications and support from the UKSA.

In 2018, Kenya, working jointly with the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) put into orbit their first Kenyan Nano-satellite which “raised awareness of policy makers on utilization of space science and technology for the benefit of humanity”.[4]While this was incredibly beneficial for them, they also mentioned under Agenda Item 6: Space Technology for Sustainable Socioeconomic Development that “Kenya continues to use Satellite technology to provide critical information that informs decisions in disaster management, farming, conservation and monitoring of natural resources, communication, navigation, among others. However, it is noted that developing countries are not using satellite technology to its full potential due to lack of funds, expertise, equipment or awareness.”[5]What this reiterates is the need for collaboration and capacity-building between established space nations and developing space nations. Nigeria took the floor and mentioned the success they have had with space capacity-building especially through the United Nations affiliated African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in English (ARCSSTE-E). However, they also advocate “the need for capacity-building, training, and education towards increasing knowledge in several critical areas including the legal framework within which space activities are being carried out. Nigeria stresses the importance of capacity-building for African countries…”[6]Additionally Nigeria mentioned their continued work with other African Member States “in promoting Space Science and Technology in Africa through the African Leadership Congress (ALC) on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development.”[7] It is worth noting that at the 57th session of STSC Rwanda joined COPUOS making them the 20th Member State from Africa to join COPUOS.


As African member states are collectively urging capacity-building and support for developing space nations, it is worth consideration that perhaps, now that the UK is moving forward post-Brexit, that they establish a collective space initiative across the Commonwealth considering the LTS Guidelines, the Space2030 Agenda and the Space4SDGs initiative.


The opinions expressed in these blogs posts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centre for a Spacefaring Civilization or anyone else.


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[1]The full written evidence can be read online here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-relations-and-defence-committee/the-uk-and-subsaharan-africa/written/106956.pdf [2] UK General Statement at the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS, 3 February, Vienna: https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/copuos/stsc/2020/statements/2020-02-03-AM-Item04-10-UKE.pdf [3] UK Delegation Agenda Item 13 Long Term Sustainability Statement: https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/copuos/stsc/2020/statements/2020-02-04-AM-Item13-03-UKE.pdf [4]Statement by Kenya to the Fifty Seventh Session of the Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee (STSC) of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) – Thursday 6th February, 2020: https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/copuos/stsc/2020/statements/2020-02-06-AM-Item04-05-KenyaE.pdf [5]Intervention by Kenya on the Agenda Item 6: Space Technology for Sustainable Socioeconomic Development Delivered at the Fifty Seventh Session of the Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee (STSC) of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS): https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/copuos/stsc/2020/statements/2020-02-07-PM-Item06-05-KenyaE.pdf [6]General Exchange of Views Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the 57thSession of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Vienna, 3rd-14thFebruary, 2020: https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/copuos/stsc/2020/statements/2020-02-10-PM-Item04-02-NigeriaE.pdf [7]General Exchange of Views Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the 57thSession of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Vienna, 3rd-14thFebruary, 2020: https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/copuos/stsc/2020/statements/2020-02-10-PM-Item04-02-NigeriaE.pdf

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