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Africa’s space economy grows, value hits US$19bn

Africa's space economy is set for continued growth, driven by broadband demand, NewSpace companies and domestic satellite programmes.

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By Seth ONYANGO

Satellite communications continue to gain significance in Africa as countries explore opportunities to build resilience, improve security and promote the internet economy.

Space in Africa’s (SIA) industry annual report released on August 16, 2022, valued the continent’s space economy at USD$19.49 billion.

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It shows African nations have shelled out US$534.9 million for the operation of their respective satellite programmes in 2022 alone, reflecting a 2.24 per cent jump from a revised US$523.2 million spent last year. Satellite programmes make up just one part of a wider space economy that includes a range of services including telecoms and security services.

Financial services firm, Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than US$1 trillion in 2040, up from the current US$424 billion.

Africa accounts for 4.5 per cent of that, with Morgan Stanley expecting the most significant short and medium-term opportunities to come from satellite broadband internet access.

There are over 19,000 people working in the continent’s space sector, with 11, 000 government staff forming a significant part of that number.

The study shows Africa’s space economy is expected to continue its upward trajectory as demand for satellite services soars.

“Satellite communication is expected to play an essential part in bridging the connectivity gap in Africa, while GNSS services and the satellite TV segment remain the most significant contributors to the African space economy,” SIA noted.

As of 2022, 12 African nations have manufactured 48 satellites amid a wider paradigm shift from large to small satellites, primarily due to the lower cost-of-entry barriers offered to smaller satellite systems.

272 NewSpace companies are charting the course of space democratisation on the continent, many of those focusing on locally-manufactured, small, or “cube” satellites.

“National budgets consistently contribute to the industry valuation annually, and governments’ contributions increased by 80.83 per cent in 2021 from the revised USD289.33 million in 2019 to USD523.2 million,” reads the SIA report in part.

“Many African countries are also improving on their space application goals as different national priorities span space democratisation, propulsion & launch technology development, human capacity development, and local and international space partnerships, amongst others.”

According to Harvard University, Africa’s space ambitions have grown since 1998 when Egypt launched its Nilesat 101 to provide multimedia services to over five million homes in the region.

Harvard notes that since then, over 40 satellites have taken to the stars, with more than 20 in the last five years.

“In addition, the first satellites to be entirely developed in Africa were launched by South Africa’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology from Cape Canaveral in January 2022,” it published in its Harvard International Review.

AIS report further indicates the satellite communication market, which includes Fixed Satellite Services (FSS), Mobile Satellite Services (MSS), and Satellite TV services, accounts for a major share of the African space and satellite industry valuation in 2021.

A considerable share of this revenue comes from the African satellite TV market, with major satellite TV operators like DSTV, Canal+ Afrique, and StarTimes dominating the market in terms of revenue generation, subscriber base, and countries served.

SIA attributed the downward trend within the satellite component manufacturing segment to the reduction in revenues of some companies.

It notes that several companies are shutting down, while some are still working on marketing their first products and, as such, have not been generating revenues.

The Geopolitical Intelligence Service (GIS) expects the space economy’s most profound impacts to be on terrestrial activities, over the next few years.

“Any endeavour that requires the mass accumulation and analysis of data will be particularly affected. As the data-rich economy develops, fueled by the proliferation of 5G and 6G telecommunications and the rapid spread of the Internet of Things, space-based sensors will play an increasing role,” it said in a report.

The ‘Global Risks Report 2022,’ lists Egypt and South Africa alongside Middle East’s Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seeking independence in developing and launching their own satellites as well as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico in Latin America and Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam in the Asia-Pacific region.

Over the last few years, Africa’s space industry has been very busy with a number of countries sending satellites – including those designed and developed on the continent – into space.

In January, South Africa’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology launched its third satellite mission into space, riding on a rocket launched from the Florida, USA, Cape Canaveral launch site.

The nanosatellite constellation – consisting of three satellites christened MDASat (Marine Domain Awareness) – has been designed to collect critical data to enhance the security and protection of South African marine resources.

Source: bird story agency

 

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