Africa ‘needs own space agency’

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IOL pic aug1 sudan bashir Reuters (File image) Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

Khartoum - Africa needs its own space research agency, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told a regional conference of communications ministers who met on Wednesday as the continent's IT sector grows.

“I'm calling for the biggest project, an African space agency,” Bashir said in remarks opening the two-day conference.

“Africa must have its space agency.”

Known as AfriSpace, it would enable “cooperation among African states in space research and technology and their space applications,” crucial to the continent's development, says a working document issued for the African Union conference.

When they last met in Nigeria two years ago, ministers asked the African Union Commission to conduct a feasibility study for AfriSpace.

At the Khartoum talks they are expected to ask for AU implementation of the study, which aims to provide a “roadmap for the creation of the African Space Agency.”

The working document noted that only “a tiny minority” of countries control space technologies which play a major role in everything from broadcasting to weather forecasting, agriculture, health, and environmental monitoring.

“A common continental approach will allow the sharing of risks and costs and ensure the availability of skilled and sufficient human resources,” the document said.

“It will also ensure a critical size of geographical area and population required in terms of the plan of action for some space applications.”

Among its roles, AfriSpace would implement a long-term African space policy, recommend “space objectives” to member states, and coordinate orbital slots and other space resources, the document said.

Twenty years ago, African nations decided to create the Regional African Satellite Communication Organisation (RASCOM), an intergovernmental commercial agency which in 2007 launched a pan-African telecommunications satellite.

A replacement satellite was launched from French Guyana in August 2010 to support health and education projects, broadband connectivity as well as voice, Internet, radio and TV broadcasting, RASCOM said on its website.

Bashir said he is also looking forward to the ministers' endorsement of a convention on cyber legislation, which would provide guidelines for development of national-level laws.

“I'm calling for the African states to protect and secure all their communications sources,” Bashir said.

Cybercrimes are increasing on the continent as broadband Internet access rises, a conference document said.

“Being wired to the rest of the world means that Africa is now within the perimeter of cybercrime, making the continent’s information systems more vulnerable than ever before,” it said.

Information and communications technology demand is soaring along with the growth in broadband, another conference document said.

“Demand, around 300 gigabits per second in 2009, will reach 6,000 gigabits per second by 2018,” it said. - Sapa-AFP

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