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Oftentimes, Africa does not feature in discussions around the global space race — for a number of reasons that go beyond just the economics of it. That doesn’t mean we are completely absent though, as the recent launch of Ghana’s first satellite shows.
Unlike other satellites launched by other African countries (read: Nigeria), this particular satellite is built by Ghanaians at the All Nations University, a private Ghanaian university. The institution is also the first ever in Africa to communicate with the International Space Station (ISS).
Like most African governments, the project did not receive official Ghanaian government support, although President Nana Akuffo-Addo congratulated and applauded the team directly on the historical feat.
Instead, the Japanese national space agency, JAXA, provided majority of the funding and training to develop the satellite.
The satellite is a cubesat, a miniature kind of satellite for space research, and it was delivered to the US space agency, NASA’s, international space station after being launched from the Kennedy Space Center via a SpaceX rocket.
According to a Techcrunch report, project manager Richard Damoah says the satellite has two missions: Detailed monitoring of Ghana’s coastlines and a platform with which the team intends to incorporate satellite technology into Ghana’s high school curriculum.
The GhanaSat-1 will also send signals to All Nations University’s Space Systems and Technology Laboratory — the same place where it was developed by a team of engineers which include Benjamin Bonsu, Ernest Teye Matey, and Joseph Quansah.
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This looks like more focused approach to entering the space race. In contrast, Nigeria has launched over five satellites (none of which have been built by Nigerians) into orbit with nothing to show for it.
In fact, a Nigerian satellite reportedly got “lost” in space back in 2008 and earlier this year, Prof. Seidu Mohammed, Director General of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), announced that the Nigerian government believes the country will need an “international space station” by 2030.
He also said this, while making that announcement in New York: “Those nanosatellites, each time they are within the Nigerian territory, would be singing National Anthem. So those who carry UHF radio would be able to receive it and all these are part of Nigeria’s efforts.”
How can a country that can’t even pass a budget on time hope to build a fully functional “international space station” in 13 years? We haven’t even built a nanosatellite yet. Mohammed also said the satellites will play the national anthem and provide UHF bandwidth. How does any of that make any sense?
It is this kind of unchecked inability to properly prioritize its needs that has led Nigeria to this point where it is taking a backseat on huge engineering accomplishments like the Ghanaian team has managed.
Despite the fact that Nigeria’s tech scene is more vibrant — two major global tech CEOs have visited in less than a year — than Ghana’s, the nearby country seems to be doing way better at focusing its efforts on the things that matter.
Things like working infrastructure, an enabling business environment, and a laser-focused strategy are some of the things that Nigeria needs to put in place if it wants to achieve laudable feats like the Ghanaians have.
When will we start taking these important lessons from our neighbours and implementing them for our benefit? When will Nigeria become truly worthy of the “Giant of Africa” tag?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.