After a protracted process stretching beyond 5 years, the African Union (AU) Space Working Group delivered the African Space Policy document late last year (African Space Strategy V10_1). This document was subsequently adopted by African education, science and technology ministers and is expected to be approved by the AU Heads of States Summit in January 2016.
This is a welcome, refreshing and overdue undertaking. Such headway is emblematic of the advocated surge in recognizing the unmatched capabilities presented by space technology in expediting the realization of national development agendas.
In line with our earlier assertions, this progression by the AU falls within the activities stipulated in Phase-1 of our proposed road-map for establishing a space sector in Kenya. Furthermore, a scrutiny of this policy document reveals a general congruence with our road-map’s postulations on the justification and supremacy of space technology in improving the socioeconomic status of ordinary citizenry.
The AU should be acknowledged for this historic bold step and encouraged to
persistently inculcate space technology in all spheres of its development agenda.
In our previous discussion on How Kenya should adopt space technology, we examined the dynamics and implications of a continent-led embracement approach. Summarily, we asserted;
…The developmental priorities of each member state will have to be synchronized with those of other countries through consensus building mechanisms before a common goal is pursued. As a result, inter-governmental bureaucracy, vested national interests, mistrusts, vastly varying technological and fiscal abilities, political posturing etc, are likely to fetter this approach. Moreover, this approach would lead to uneven penetration of space technology among the member countries and decisions on where to host the agency’s assets will be highly contentious. However, this approach has the potential to be relatively better funded due to availability of multiple funding sources and a vast potential skills base…
One maybe tempted to avoid some of the aforementioned obstacles by simply circumventing the consensus building exercise. Unfortunately, such a move elevates the risk of member countries withholding their indispensable support for the space policy.Involving member states in the space policy formulation process instills a sense of shared ownership of the product hence guaranteeing continued inherent support.
We still maintain this mostly skeptic proclivity towards continent-centric approaches to domestically embrace efficacious and sustainable space technology for national development.
However, the existing and potential role played by African development organizations like the AU in promoting the utilization of space technology to expedite national development agendas cannot be overstated. Consequently, this unprecedented effort by the AU should be recognized, appreciated and similar ventures encouraged going forward.
Specifically, the prevailing brazenly favorable regard of space technology by the AU will promote a similarly gritty disposition within member states. Consequently, this will serve to embolden the efforts of nascent national space programs; hasten the inauguration of planned ones; and, ignite awareness of space technology in tepidly inquisitive member countries. It is the intent of Kenya Space Sector Advocacy to contribute towards this cumulative effort.
The AU’s space policy document has elicited optimism, criticism, admiration and skepticism from various corners across the continent. For instance, proponents of Non-Governmental Organization’s agenda mull over how the hackneyed “foreign aid” will be incorporated in this venture (African space policy adds new dimension for aid : SciDev, Net). Other pundits question the seemingly quixotic timelines in addition to contemplating the lack of definitive organizational and fiscal frameworks in the policy document (Africa Analysis: The continent’s bold space policy : SciDev.Net).
Nevertheless, as a constituent activity of Phase-1 in the proposed road-map for establishing a space sector in Kenya; this is a positive development for African countries such as Kenya in their endeavor to improve the socioeconomic well-being of her citizens.