New entity launched to stimulate and coordinate the South African space sector

28th November 2019 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Not-for-profit company ZASpace Inc. was launched in Pretoria on Thursday. It is intended to stimulate the development of the local space industry and especially the geospatial sector, to meet the rapidly growing needs of South Africa and Africa. This will include skills development and innovative funding for startups and small, medium-sized and microenterprises.

In his address at the launch, ZASpace CEO Kamal Ramsingh pointed out that the global geospatial information market had been worth $193-billion in 2013, rising to $299-billion in 2017, and was expected to reach $500-billion next year. Worldwide, the major market segments driving the growth of the geospatial analysis sector were (from smallest to largest) travel and hospitality, disaster management, mapping agencies, banking and financial services and insurance, defence and security, mining and energy, retail and logistics, e-government, utilities, and infrastructure and smart cities.

The geospatial information sector includes global satellite navigation systems, geographic information systems and spatial analysis, Earth observation, and three-dimensional scanning. A key facilitator for the sector is the development of nanosatellites and microsatellites (varying in mass from 1 kg to 50 kg), deployed in constellations.

Although the biggest markets were the US, the UK, and the rest of Europe, Africa was the fastest growing market. It had enjoyed a compound annual growth rate of 16.8%, with spatial analysis accounting for 30% of the African market. For the period 2018 to 2020, the African geospatial market was expected to grow at 21%, in comparison to 11% for Europe and 10% for the US.

The African market’s growth was a “huge burst in a short period of time,” he highlighted. This signalled that it was the time to invest in the sector in Africa.

However, South Africa suffered from a skills deficit, and some other African countries had almost no relevant skills at all. In terms of its “geospatial readiness” South Africa ranked thirty-first in the world. “We still have a massive skills scarcity challenge,” he said. “We are playing catch-up.” ZASpace would be the driver to improve the country’s geospatial readiness.

“We see Africa as the growth potential,” for the local space agency, pointed out South African National Space Agency (Sansa) CEO Dr Val Munsami in his address. He noted that one of the priorities in the National Space Policy was to foster the development of a national space industry. In terms of the objectives of the National Space Strategy, these included, under the rubric of innovation and economic growth, the development of a local space industry.

The policy was clear: Sansa should stimulate the development of a national space industry. “It’s very important for us to support the local industry,” he affirmed.

Sansa saw ZASpace as playing key roles with the local industry. These included effectively coordinating the local industry, making marketing of the local industry by Sansa and the government easier, promoting opportunities in a coordinated manner (moving the industry away from local competition to cooperation), the development of international partnerships, and industry-to-industry engagement.