Participation as an African partner country, with South Africa, in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope programme is important to Mozambique, the country’s Vice Minister for Science, Technology, Higher and Professional Education, Leda Hugo, told Engineering News Online. “It is important for it gives us the possibility to uplift our country through science, technology and innovation, in coordination with other African countries and in a global environment,” she said.
The country is already making preparations. “We have several programmes of training, some [of them] postgraduate programmes. At this stage, all of them are outside of the country, including in South Africa,” she reported. “We are building a technical team to take responsibility for this programme, altogether with another centre we have, an ICT [information and communications technology] park in our country. The main focus is on training young Mozambicans for this science, including postgraduate degrees.”
The country is identifying possible sites for outstations for Phase 2 of the SKA (outstations from the South African core, in the Karoo region). It already has a programme to benefit the rural communities situated near the outstations.
“At the rural sites, the first thing we do, when we chose a site, we put in infrastructure like a school, hospital, electricity, water – including wells – as far as is possible,” explained Hugo. “Then we build Community Competence Centres, focused on the main economic activity in the village. This improves life in these areas.” The competence centres improve the villagers’ skills in for example, farming or fishing.
In the interim, Mozambique, along with the other African SKA partner countries, is also a member of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN). This is a radio astronomy project that involves converting obsolete large telecommunications dishes into radio telescopes.
“We do have a plan to have a radio telescope in Mozambique, for the AVN,” stated Hugo. “We have not identified a dish yet.”
Earlier this month, SKA South Africa – the agency responsible for South Africa’s contribution to the SKA, as well as for the MeerKAT radio telescope array (a precursor to Phase 1 of the SKA) and the AVN – reported that telecommunications group Telkom had donated a 7.6 m dish, situated near the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (east of Pretoria), to be converted into a training radio telescope for Mozambique. A small team of Mozambicans will be trained to assemble and operate the radio telescope, which will then be dismantled, shipped to Mozambique and re-erected and operated at the Maluana Science and Technology Park.
Apart from South Africa and Mozambique, the African SKA partner countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia and Zambia.