In the last few years, Africa has witnessed an unprecedented acceleration in tech products and services hinged on the outer space resource. As of August 2022, the African space industry is worth USD 19.49 billion, and is expected to grow to USD 22.64 billion by 2026.
As of April, 53 satellites have been launched by 15 African counties, and of these satellites, nine were launched by commercial entities. Africa’s satellite program began in 1999, with the launch of SUNSAT-1 by South Africa, and the latest launch was that of the Kenyan educational satellite, Taifa-1, launched on 11 April 2023.
Africa has a legacy in across up and downstream, covering remote sensing; telecommunications and navigations; as well as space manufacturing, and the establishment of critical infrastructure, which are all expanding.
Lately, there has been a boom in critical investment plans in Africa specifically, such as the recent plans to establish a commercial spaceport in Djibouti, which is one of multiple prospects geared towards critical investments for space infrastructure in Africa.
Foreseeing the growth of the private sector
At the recent NewSpace Africa Conference 2023, the spirit of development cooperation towards building capacity in space is in the air. Various stakeholders in the governmental, developmental, and private sector representatives met under the theme: “Unlocking the full potential of private sector company services delivery, through space data, science, technology and services”. This theme acknowledged the private sector’s role in advancing innovative solutions to African challenges and fostered a knowledge-sharing environment for both EU and AU-based entities to come to a mutual consensus on cooperation needs, with mutual reciprocity as a baseline. We saw three key conversations around Africa’s growing potential:
- Consolidation of Africa’s Earth Observation market.
- Need for enabling policy frameworks to support emerging technologies.
- Diversification of the African market towards critical infrastructure and investments.
This is only a fragment of the wider African space program, which includes ambitions for the continent’s wider partnerships. There is a clear and growing need to consider international collaboration as a tool towards building local capacity and a need to prepare for its expected challenges and opportunities.
Africa is the largest emerging market for space products and services, according to the World Bank, which opines that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will create a market valued at a whopping USD 3.4 trillion GDP. Further statistics from a 2022 report indicate that under policy-driven implementation and enforcement, the trade agreement will.
- Connect over 1.3 billion people across 55 countries.
- Lift at least 30 million people out of extreme poverty.
- Help raise a further 68 million others surviving on less than USD 5.50 per day.
Enabling the space industry to benefit from this regulatory haven will require anticipatory diplomacy, oriented towards fostering certainty and return on investment in commercial negotiations. Notwithstanding the roles of other entities, the successful implementation of any space program demonstrates a balance between the public, the private, and the research interest, and their respective commercial contributions and benefits.
Referencing the African Space Agency’s recommendations for a strong and united Africa in Space, the next steps will be for Africa to:
- Bolster local content rules: whilst building capacity, local entities should be protected from the effects of international trade.
- Leverage alternative financing mechanisms: access to additional sources of capital will increase the scope and quality of industry initiatives.
- Focus on policy implementation and enforcement: maintaining a consensus-based strategy for negotiating and resolving agreements/disputes will instil confidence in local processes.
The space economy has a big future in Africa, and it offers the chance for the continent to grow its economies and presence globally. As policy and regulations are developed, both local bodies and entities will need to understand how to maximise their opportunities, and those wishing to invest or seize on the growth will need to understand the everchanging environment.
Access Partnership has one Africa office in Johannesburg, with consultants spanning from the five regional blocks. We support both private and public sector entities in navigating policy and regulatory challenges in the African market and globally, advising entities on all matters covering space and spectrum. With a dedicated Africa team, we are well placed to support new market entrants and help companies to grow. We remain committed to supporting the introduction of fair tech into new markets.