The future of space cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the African continent was explored at a ‘Space for the African citizen’ event in Brussels on 16 September hosted by the EU’s current Belgian presidency.
Satellite images capture deforestation in Madagascar. Image taken in 2001. © EC Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
Sabine Laruelle, Belgian Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, the Self-Employed, Agriculture and Science Policy, explained that cooperation in space giving access to satellite data was all about managing resources for sustainable development. It could help African nations improve their ability to provide food and water security and health care, and provide early warning of disasters enabling quick responses to emergencies.
Space comes under the 8th partnership of the EU’s Africa Strategy together with Science and Information Society. “We have to move a step further to scale up our international cooperation, where Africa will become an equal player through acquiring or exploiting space capabilities”, said EU Commissioner for Science and Space, Jean Pierre Ezin. He would like to see international support for an African Space Agency.
Some countries on the African continent have already built up their own space-related capabilities and programmes: South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria. Others have bilateral space projects with private entities or international governments. Meteorological data from the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) is also currently shared with African nations.
“Various space projects in different areas have been developed for Africa but very few are sustainable beyond the pilot phase. This is due to the fact that often the local community of the end users is not involved from the beginning and does not have the feeling of ownership”, reads a newly released study, European-African Partnership in Satellite Applications for Sustainable Development (www.espi.or.at), drawn up by the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI). Said Andre Nonguierma, Senior Officer for Information Systems at the Information, Science and Technology Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA): “This continent needs its own observation system dedicated to the African continent”.
EU Action Plan
Space is expected to be at the heart of the next Action Plan from 2011 to2013 for the implementation of the Africa-EU strategy. “At the request of the ACP Group of States, a €20M project will be identified later this month (October 2010) as the 10th EDF Intra-ACP contribution to the implementation of Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) services in Africa. A further €4.5M will be drawn from the proposed € 9M “Support to the Air Transport Sector in Africa” to finance preparations for the possible deployment of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) to Africa”, says Francesco Affinito, European Commission Focal Point at DG Development for partnership 8 (Science and Technology).The EU’s GMES currently under development aims to provide data for monitoring of the environment and supporting civil security. Under the EU’s European Development Fund (EDF), a 48-month project, African Monitoring of Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD), started in 2007. This is already giving African nations access to Earth Observation (EO) technologies and data for environmental and climate monitoring. The development of EGNOS in Africa will improve satellite navigation services to the continent, especially for aviation.
For more see: GMES.info