Friday 20th December 2019 marked a major landmark achievement for Africa, when Ethiopia launched its first satellite into space, making Ethiopia the 11th African country to put a satellite into space.
he launch of the Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite took place at a space station in China, though scores of Ethiopian and Chinese officials and scientists gathered at the Entoto Observatory and Research Center outside the capital, Addis Ababa, early Friday to watch a live broadcast.
“This will be a foundation for our historic journey to prosperity,” Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen said in a speech, adding; “This technological infrastructure is important even if it’s delayed.”
It is the eighth launch of an African satellite this year, topping the previous record of seven in 2017, according to Temidayo Oniosun, managing director of Space in Africa, a Nigeria-based firm that tracks African space programs.
“We can say that 2019 is pretty much the best year in the history of the African space industry,” Oniosun said.
All said, 41 African satellites have now been launched, 38 of which were done from individual countries and three from multilateral efforts. None of those launches has taken place from African soil.
Data provided by Ethiopia’s satellite is expected to paint a fuller picture of the country’s agriculture, forestry and mining resources and improve responses to flooding and other disasters.
China covered most of the $8 million cost of the satellite, according to an official involved in Ethiopia’s space program who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details of the project
The government established the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute in 2016. The space program was originally championed by private individuals who formed the Ethiopian Space Science Society in 2004.
In his congratulatory message on the launch, Dr Juma Mukhwana, the Director General and CEO Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA), wrote; “Africa missed out on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd industrial revolutions. But on the 4th one driven driven by technology and ICT, Africa is featuring.” Adding, “Ethiopia has done Africa proud by launching a satellite into space. Congratulations Ethiopia.”
Dr. Mukhwana appreciated that although Africa is facing many challenges, its presence in the 4IR cannot be ignored.
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