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Africa space policy with Ruvimbo Samanga.

Ruvimbo Samanga is an African space policy analyst based in Zimbabwe. She supports many initiatives in space policy, business, outreach, and education.





Ruvimbo Samanga is an Africa Space Policy Analyst currently working for Access Partnership and sits on the Board of the Space Arbitration Association. She serves as an Ambassador for the MILO Space Science Institute, and previously served a 2-year term as the National Point of Contact for Zimbabwe in the Space Generation Advisory Council, the latter which is in support of the United Nations Program on Space Applications.

You can connect with Ruvimbo on LinkedIn.

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[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: Welcome to T-Minus Deep Space from N2K networks, I'm Alice Carruth, producer of the T-Minus Space Daily podcast. Deep Space includes extended interviews and bonus content for a deeper look into some of the topics we cover on our daily program.

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Our guest today is Ruvimbo Samanga. Ruvimbo is an Africa-based policy analyst currently working for Access Partnership and sits on the board of the Space Arbitration Association. She serves as an ambassador for the Milo Space Science Institute and previously served a two-year term as the national point of contact for Zimbabwe in the Space Generation Advisory Council, which is in support of the United Nations program on space applications. Who better to share insight into the growing space industry across Africa?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: My name is Ruvimbo Samanga. I am a space policy analyst. I am also an ambassador at the Milo Space Science Institute, and I sit on a number of boards, including the Space Arbitration Association as well as the Executive Advisory Committee for the Charles F. Bolden Group. I say space policy analyst by day but I'm also a space advocate by night here as well, and very passionate just about outreach and sharing my knowledge and my journey with everyone else, especially in the African context, to inspire, to inform, and I think to allow for a changing of the narrative in a way that suits our local heritage. I'm based in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. It is the second largest city, and we are in the southern tip of Africa just next to South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana. And we make up a nice community of, I would say, highly resilient, highly informed, and determined people with close ties to our cultural heritage.

>> Alice Carruth: So, I'm going to prefix it with we're never going to cover the entire continent in this conversation. It's - Africa is a massive continent and it has been involved in space for some time. We've obviously got very established space agencies like the ones up in Egypt. And then we've got others kind of starting to come on this journey of space. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the countries that are working on space policy right now and where we should be watching?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I would say there's a lot of activity happening on the continent, perhaps adopting a hierarchical view would be the best start, which is to start from the top and see the organization of the institutions and how they mandate sort of those international agendas. So, the national institution so far, that has coordinated the African Outer Space Program would be the African Union Commission. And under the African Union Commission we will also soon have the development of the African Space Agency, which is intended to coordinate the activities of all African states, all 55 of them. So, it's a very big mandate, but so far, I think there has been good headway in securing the financial and administrative requirements towards its operation and its kind. It has four directorates. I hope I get it correct, but they currently deal with, of course, policy, which is an important one; space applications, space operations and technology, and I believe the last might be travel, [inaudible] the last. But in any case, the documents are freely available. I'll touch on what I do know which is the policy and that is the African space policy and strategy, which were released by the African Union Commission, hoping to make use of different applications, especially earth observation, which is our largest market statement in Africa. So, Tibet, and we have seen a number of countries engage in not only research and development but also technology and innovation in a number of sectors, there's observation included. But also, in sort of the upstream capabilities as well, which is the ability to manufacture and produce our own competence and products. So, it's quite exciting to see. With regards to policy, quite recently, Ghana was the latest country, I believe the 10th, to enact its space policy. And essentially what it is, is a framework to guide different institutions on how they can manage their program. And each country will have its own needs and will align its policy with their needs. So, we see with countries like Egypt that just signed international partnerships for development of manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing facilities. That is the building of local capabilities. And then we see with countries like Kenya, which is about to enact a private sector bill, that they're looking towards business development and the enabling of a very active startup. So, I could touch on many of them. Morocco, Zimbabwe, of course, [Inaudible] made recently. One that has been paving an impressive path as well and a number of others that, I think, will have a lot of ambitions in the coming years.

>> Alice Carruth: So, you've covered quite a lot in just that one introduction. Obviously, a lot of the nations have been involved in space for quite some time, started off with government led initiatives. But there's also a growing commercial space industry across the whole continent of Africa as well. Can you talk a little bit about some of the companies that have started to build over there?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: Certainly. I would say that as of 2023, there are at least 283 or more new space companies, as we refer to them, operating in Africa. The majority of them, of course, operating in the downstream, which would be the use for derivatives of beta analytics or information derived from space and application systems, again, in the earth observation market. But we also see some up-and-coming players in the companies manufacturing market. I'll touch on a few which come to mind quite easily. New Space, this firm is located in Cape Town has been manufacturing, assembling, and I perceive integrating and testing satellites for the last couple of years as well, only because of South Africa. We also see that there are companies that are utilizing new methodologies for existing challenges or providing new solutions. I will touch on Hypernova Space again from South Africa that is developing interesting propulsion mechanisms for future space transportations. That's quite interesting as well. And even more, just away from the commercial front, we have a lot of stakeholders that are developing new all treatment beds, new ways of preparing us for future space exploration. And I'll touch on, again, a good friend, Dr. Adriana Marais, who is the head of Proudly Human. And they are conducting off-world experiments in different sites like Antarctica and the Madras desert. And these are all indicative of a need to prepare our collective consciousness towards the future settlement in space. I think these are all quite innovative. Away from that, we can also touch on the huge aggrotech industry. I think there are about 40 precision farming companies, the majority of them, especially in eastern Africa and west Africa as well, which highlights not only a need for food security solutions in Africa, but I think a desire to create changes that speak to, again, our local heritage which is an agricultural region and an agricultural continent. And last, but not least, what could I touch on? There are industrial and international industrial coefficients which are looking at utilizing small satellites for diverse purposes, especially related to climate change, to wildlife and conservation, and to water resource management as well. I cannot name the full different breadth of them all, but I think it all just speaks to our desire to not only be, I think uptakers of this different data and products, but also contributors as well. And I do see a research and development base forming in Africa. One interesting factor is the majority of the founders and CEOs of these startups are below the age of 35, so it's a youth revolution as well. We see a very young population of entrepreneurs coming up, and I think that's quite interesting to know that, to look forward to, given that half of our population is below the age of 19.

>> Alice Carruth: That's really exciting that you've got such a growth in such a young area as well in Africa. And you touched a little bit on a ground-based infrastructure. Obviously, infrastructure's such a big, hot topic either here in the US and across Europe as well for ground stations, but also for space ports. What's going on across the continent right now with that infrastructure development?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I believe a lot is happening behind the scenes. I do believe there's one publicly profiled project, which is the Djibouti Spaceport. And an interesting fact about spaceports is they, of course, have the geographical advantage of being located around the equator or having most efficiency when located near the equator. And I believe there are about 13 equatorial countries. And if I'm not mistaken, at least nine of them are located in Africa and that's quite an impressive geolocation advantage that I think will be made great use of. I think has already been made great use of by the Kenyan Spaceport, which is not operational at the moment, but provides a lot of prospect. And of course, among the other countries, such as Somalia, I believe, has plans to pursue a spaceport application. So, to that end, I'll say there's a lot of investment for critical infrastructure in space, and it certainly will go towards such initiatives. I cannot remember the figures, but I do know that if all the opportunities for spaceports were fully utilized in Africa, it will double launch capabilities as they currently stand. So, I already throw it out there to the powers that may be, that this is an opportunity we should be making great use of, and perhaps private sector can help us do so because they bring the innovation and experience. And again, international collaborations can help us learn from the successes and perhaps pitfalls of the past.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm excited to hear that there is more development going on across the continent. And I'm excited to hear a lot more about the African Space Agency and how you're working together as a continent. Obviously, we've seen this model happen across Europe before and it's been a huge success. What is Africa doing as a collective to figure out things like policy for launch? Safety standards? You know, that kind of thing?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I think it's important to frame Africa's development according to three different nodes. So, I think that there are three primary nodes, but I'd like to add one, which maybe is not commonly agreed on, but I think is quite -- is just as important. But I'll start with the primary three, which is research and development being the first, technology being the second, and innovation being the third. And the one that I'll put before all of these would be the awareness raising node. And why I say awareness raising is important is we need to have the requisite political world to continue space programs, especially in Africa. We have to have these space ambitions contend with other existing SDG challenges. And to that end, we have not only experienced a slow progress of the development ladder because of this duality, but I think it makes it even harder to continue to move up the ladder and justify technology and innovation in face of those challenges. So, that said, we are very much on the research and development node, and we cannot really speak to a lot of the innovations that our global peers are at. But nevertheless, I think it's important that we show our capabilities to the rest of the entire community that we have a cultural heritage that allows us to speak into research and development and industrial partnerships and maintain a voice. So, that said, I would say that the vast amount of our conglomeration or consolidation of the African market has focused on research and development partnerships and a little bit of technology as well. Some of the partnerships I can talk of from the top of my head include the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security partnership with GMES and Africa which is a partnership between the AU and the EU for earth observation. And what I find symbolic about this partnership is not only are we learning from a similar model, but I think it also demonstrates our capacity to utilize base products and services in a way that's already been done or is being done by global partners. And essentially, it started off as a 13 million Euro funded project which was given to 12 different consortia of research institutes all over Africa. And they meet regularly for an important process of information sharing, knowledge sharing, best practice sharing, towards the betterment of the earth observation industry. We also have some regional initiatives which are in progress. For example, the Southern African Development Community Satellite data sharing tube or the SADST data sharing tube, which was an initiative of the 19 SADST countries starting of course with four primary countries to have a better access to regional structures for satellite earth observation and sharing that data freely and openly. We also have, I believe it's called the ARM project -- the Africa Resource Management project, which is again, four countries that have come together to contribute one satellite each and share the data across those satellites. I think the sharing of resources, skills, and the free movement of whether it's persons or the free movement of money, etcetera or products and services rather. And this falls under the great umbrella of the Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement, which is a seminal document in terms of trade, I think since the World Trade Organization. And it brings together a combined African GDP of $3.20 in US dollars. And when fully effected, this should give us the opportunity to have the free movement of products and services, but also make best use of the youth -- the women-led enterprise which stands about about 60-percent. And I think just the general capabilities and capacities of all members of African society. That said, while this remains, I think, a very good prospect, there's good ground and I say this is an important aspect to demonstrate to the national community which is our proactive policy making. Because I understand public policy in space to largely have been reactive, it's good to demonstrate what a publicly oriented program can look like from the start and to have that groundwork laid. [Music] So, certainly more to come, but for now we await on the full coming into operation of the African Space Agency, which I'm sure will have a lot to offer the African population.

[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: We'll be back.

[ Music ]

Where are you seeing investment right now? Where is it coming from? Is it government led? Is it private industry led?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I'm suddenly seeing for the most part, investment from governments and other state institutions. So, for instance, at the institution-to-institution level, I'm seeing a lot of partnerships coming together, for instance, as with Cosmos the Azaria Space Agency recently signed a partnership with the Egyptian Space Agency, I think, to enhance satellite programs and services. And furthermore, we see also international industry partners, having full claim and a lot of success in introducing products and services within the African market. So, there is a lot of market access initiatives and market access funding. For instance, Mutual SAT, which is a digital connectivity partner has had massive success in revenues from year-to-year, especially in Africa. And that is a demonstration of not only needs, but I think the ability for international partners to have a stake, so significant investment there. If I understand, and I don't have the name off the top of my head, but there is a program that has partnered with local institutions to increase the uptake of Copernicus data in Africa, so there is funding towards not only uptake of data, but I think the training and services involved. And stem education as well between intel set and Max EQ [phonetic] have partnered to increase stem education in Africa as a workforce development need. So, understanding again, going back to those four nodes of development that there needs to be some araise- awareness raising, and that is most often done by empowering people through knowledge and resources etc. So, to that end, I will say, the majority of investments, again, institution was state level, and I think this follows in line with the mandate of its national treaty laws, which is to provide states with the authority to coordinate these activities. And through the states we see there is an enabling of private sector as it should necessarily flow. And through again, the finding received from private sector would seem to offshoot the grassroot initiatives accordingly.

>> Alice Carruth: So, you talked about how important academia is, and obviously we know that academia plays such a pivotal role and in space research. What are African universities doing to develop their programs to be able to create that workforce to support the upcoming industry?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: We have a network of about five universities that are coming together to offer states-related programs at institutions, and I believe there are at least two universities that provide space exploring policy professional qualifications. We also have an influx, I think, of grassroots initiatives, institutional initiatives, at the national level. But one of significance that I would like to mention. A good friend of mine, Mr. Etim Offiong, who's had an instrumental role, not only in the drafting of the AU policy and strategy, there is a proponent of the building of local capabilities. She is one of the coordinators of the African Space Leadership Institute, which is a foundation that's setting itself up as a thinktank or a policy on to the African Union Outer Space Program. And what I do appreciate is the program that they have started on space law and policy to equip everyone with the knowledge they need to become policy experts in this field. I'm very pleased, in the next few weeks I'll be giving a guest lecture myself on lunar development policy with an African twist. And I say, "An African twist," because I did a case study on the African mining governance framework and how we can use that for lessons and progress for future resource utilization on the moon. So, these kinds of initiatives, they bring the opportunities and benefits of space much closer, and they allow for everyone to have that workforce development in order to be competent in these future roles that we are creating -- or hopefully create.

>> Alice Carruth: I want to take it back a little bit to a conversation you were having earlier about the importance of earth observation and space agriculture. What kind of effect does Earth observation have on the agricultural industry throughout Africa?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I think that Earth observation has a huge developmental impact. I believe that for countries like Zimbabwe that are affected by the El Nino drought season and climate change and being in a semi-arid region, it's important to have that capacity building mechanism that informs a number of different challenges. So, for instance, I'll start with government mandates. Zimbabwe also had an ambition to conduct space programs in order to address the climate change issues and aggrotech or aggrotech solutions of being -- trying to be a policy innovation that will support government mandate. At the same time, we'll also hear a cause of wanting to integrate ourselves into the future knowledge of digital economy. And to this extent that tech or technology and knowledge transfer will help us not only usher in that kind of workforce or skills training, it'll also help us integrate into a future digital e- economy and so, it's off products. And what I mean by this is in order to engage in aggrotech, it needs some form of digital infrastructure or connectivity. So, it sort of addresses two or more challenges at once and it's a very, I think, all-encompassing solution to a number of challenges, which perhaps if I can add a final point is to say, often it's thought of that we can't have space and address our challenges at the same time. When actually, space is the way that we address our challenges. And it's such a multidisciplinary space, that it flows into not only, I think, the more common SDG uses, like for managing our resources, whether that's water, land, etcetera, climate change. But also managing of people and securing of assets. And we're seeing a diversification at least in the globe for more innovative uses of earth observation in asset monitoring, or even in the monitoring of movement of people for humanitarian causes. So, to that one I see a lot of hope for really rationalizing how we use space and ensuring that we have the requisite tools to integrate all of these different solutions in a fair and sustainable way.

>> Alice Carruth: Ruvimbo, I feel like we've covered so much, and I've just even just slightly scratched the surface. Is there anything else you wanted to cover in this conversation that you want our listeners to kind of learn about the policies in Africa.

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I think the last thing I want to say is that Africa certainly has a lot to say when it comes to space. We do understand that we are in an emerging region, but there is lots yet still to cover. But we are at such a pivotal moment of our global conversation, that to make it truly meaningful needs every single diverse voice to speak into it. And I really hope that Africa will have its platform not only to share its story, but to have its story included in the greater narrative of what's currently happening. So, happy to continue the conversation and hoping to support more advocates as we continue to grow, but the more we share our stories the more we can learn from each other [music]. And being an African myself, I know that part of caring about history is -- is really the [inaudible] of our society, and this is a wonderful way to share it. So, thank you so much Alice, and I hope that it will reverberate for years to come.


[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: [Music] That's it for T-Minus Deep Space for September 2, 2023. We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com, or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. This episode was mixed by Eliot Peltsman [phonetic] and Trey Hester [phonetic] with original music and sound design by Eliot Peltsman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf [phonetic]. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman [phonetic], and I'm Alice Carruth. Thanks for listening.

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