Should Africans Go To The Moon?

Should Africans Go To The Moon?

Reuters reports on a South African-led space exploration initiative launching a crowdfunding mission to reach the the moon. It is also about winning the hearts of young Africans too and inspiring a generation to use their engineering talents to reach the final frontier. But should this be how Africa of today uses it’s talent when arguably there are so many other pressing issues?

Space expeditions have brought enormous benefits to the world in terms of clean energy technology, water filtration and purification, CAT scanning, scratch resistant lens, cell phone cameras, fuel cell technology  to name but a few according to the website Care2

Four other African countries including Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria have their own space programmes. The criticism levelled at these countries is that they are all recipients of aid from the west and have populations living in extreme poverty. Shouldn’t reducing poverty be the priority?

Nigerian space scientists however, built the Nigeria SATX satellite and have an impressive facility in Abuja, the capital. The National Space Research & Development Agency has the mantra of pursuing space technology for socio-economic benefits to the nation in diverse areas such as politics, natural disasters and business. Nigeria launched it’s first satellite in 2003.

An ambitious plan is on the table to create an African Space Agency, Afrispace, to harness the scientific and engineering potential from across the continent. Africa’s interest at present is largely focused on satellite technology given the benefits in telecommunications, broadcasting, GPS mapping, weather forecasting, agriculture and climate monitoring as highlighted by a post on Africa’s space ambitions carried by the BBC.

The benefits of all these millions of dollars could set the continent up for a bright future and is captured in a quote from Terefa Waluwa, Chaiman of the Ethiopian Space Science Society:

“Almost every sector here in Ethiopia is using space science technology”, he says, citing mobile phones, agricultural activities, and aviation. “If we want to use the applications, we need to know the hard part of science.”

Many see space science for Africa as an expensive luxury, or beyond their capabilities at present, after all getting consensus within the African Union has been difficult to achieve, let alone for something as parochial and as prestigious as space science.

Perhaps Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir captures the need to pursue this ambition  as well:

“to liberate Africa from the technological domination”. 

So for those Africans in the diaspora looking for new frontiers and pioneering opportunities to exploit their STEM qualifications, the future looks bright.

Image credit: NASA HQ PHOTO, CC BY NC