Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena has urged South Africa's private sector to invest in space-related technologies, as the country was drawing near to establishing its first space agency to coordinate and implement the national space science and technology programme.
“South Africa is on the verge of establishing a space agency, which means that in the space science and technology [field] we can only see growth going forward in our country. Therefore, the market that the private sector will be manufacturing, researching, etcetera, in would only grow,” he said.
Last year, Cabinet approved the establishment of the South African Space Agency (Sasa) to conduct long-term planning and implementation of the country’s space-related activities.
Legislation to activate the space agency was currently being piloted in the Parliament, and Mangena was reluctant to put a specific date to when the Sasa would be formally launched.
South Africa was already making extensive use of the private sector in its space technology and development. It had, for example, relied on private companies to build Sumbandila, the country’s second satellite, he pointed out.
“We don’t think we will get far if we would depend only on the public sector, that is universities and research councils. We need the involvement of the private sector, especially in the niche areas where they are better able to play a role than the State sector.”
Local companies also stood to benefit from a wider market, as a growing number of African countries were implementing national space programmes.
Countries, such as Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, were involved in the proposed African Resource and Environmental Management (Arm) constellation satellites.
“Arm will assist in fast tracking the discussion regarding a possible African Space Agency, and will contribute significantly to the realisation of the proposed Africa Institute of Space Science within New Partnership for Africa's Development. This will also serve as a platform in which capacity development in the are of space science and technology can be addressed,” Mangena said, in a speech delivered at the opening of the second African Leadership Conference on Space and Technology, in Pretoria.
Delegates from 14 countries were meeting in South Africa’s capital this week to deliberate the role of space science and technology in Africa’s development.
The conference takes place on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the first successful man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, which was launched into orbit in October 4, 1957.