The starting point is the geopolitical Commission with Von der Leyen, the consequence, the relations between the European Union and Africa sealed for the next four years at least. In this framework, the Africa-EU Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space is one the eight priorities established in the Joint Africa-EU strategy. The willing of completing “a modern strategic partnership” with Africa, with economic relations focused upon “the private sector being involved in creating jobs and providing skills,” and implementing new relations while building on previous ones, is a test that the VDL Commission is promising.
This willing indeed builds on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, adopted in 2007 during the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon, in the optic of going beyond the traditional institution- donor approach and promoting the involvement of non-state actors in the process, as well as addressing global societal challenges. From the first Joint Actions, the priorities partnerships span from the Africa-EU Partnership on Peace and Security to the Africa-EU Partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment, passing through Africa-EU Partnership on Climate Change.
Priorities that can be found in the GMES, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, an initiative of the European Union and the European Space Agency to provide reliable and timely services related to environmental and security issues in support of users and public policy makers’ needs. The GMES provides a fertile framework to promote the development of local, institutional and technical resources to access and exploit the use of Earth Observation capabilities for the African Continent. This context was taken beyond European borders in the framework of GMES & Africa initiative launched in 2007 during the Africa-EU Partnership, to develop African EO capacities.
Africa does not have a comprehensive space strategy, rather at regional level; some regions are in the process of developing their own space-related capabilities, therefore there is a growing number of fragmented initiatives that renders synergies and programmes difficult to create. Few countries have a consisted and developed national strategy, and in other there is lack of knowledge and interest in the EO sector and the generic space policy sector, and the benefits these could have in the social-economic development. However, the importance of building awareness is strong around the scientific and political leadership of the African countries.
Examples of projects are the African Remote Sensing Council and Program, created in 1975, but partly failed because of lack of political and financial support from the member states. The 1979 joint African-Indian proposal for the establishment of an International Institute for Space Sciences and Electronics (INISSE) and the construction, in Kenya, of a Giant Equatorial Radio Telescope (GERT). The Regional African Satellite Communications Organization (RASCOM) project, however partly failed, still provide data services.
Satellites are crucial for the African continent that is challenged by epidemies, poverty, climate change and geo hazards, and large-scale diseases outbreaks. Technologies for education and training, satellite television, telemedicine, to name a few, help the population to adapt to the daily adversities.
Policy drivers towards an African space programme will have to take in account: “well-coordinated and integrated African space programme that is responsive to the social, economic, political and environmental needs” and a regulatory framework supporting the space programme for the use of space for peace purposes.
There is willingness to create the African Outer Space Programme with the agenda 2063, the roadmap to transform Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. Towards this goal and others comprehensive ones of the Africa strategy, the European Commission recently flew to Addis Ababa to discuss the steps forwards for cooperation and challenges to address. This will be a complementary step for wider consultations process of the EU-UA Ministerial meeting in May 2020 in Rwanda and the EU-UA Summit in October in Brussels.