Space Research in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities
Africa has lost its glory as the pioneer of space research as evidenced by the ancient library of Alexandria in Egypt that housed the first space research centre more than two thousand years ago. Cave paintings in Olduvai Gorge in present day Tanzania showed how the first humans communicated millions of years ago. Early Africans used drum beats to alert of an impending danger or of festivities. The discovery of papyrus the material used as writing paper and the invention of words that make the alphabet all originated in Ancient Egypt. All of these examples show that at a certain stage in history, Africa was a leader in science and technology (Shibanda & Isabel, 2000). However in the 21st Century, Africa has lagged behind technologically compared to all the other continents. Space research and deployment of supporting technologies including remote sensing and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) remain fundamental to bridge the technological gap between Africa and the rest of the world hence solving some of Africa’s challenges. This study analyses the challenges and opportunities that African countries face in harnessing space technologies to be used in natural disaster management, disease prevention, land use, agricultural productivity improvements and even in conflict resolution.
Key Words: Space Research, Geospatial Information Systems, Remote sensing, Africa