Highlights of the African Leadership Congress 2019 in Addis Ababa

The 8th African Leadership Congress on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development, hosted by the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute at the UN-ECA Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which commenced on the 2 December, ended yesterday.

The conference themed: “Prospects and Challenges of African Space Development “, was an opportunity for stakeholders in the African space industry and beyond to interact and exchange ideas and solutions on contemporary issues in the sector.  The congress had a total of 293  registered participants for the main and youth events from 31 countries: 21 African countries and 10 non-African countries, and space agencies and institutes from seven African countries, including Algeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

Conference proceeding included main sessions with 32 invited speakers, goodwill messages and keynote addresses; the ALC Business Meeting Youth- Forum which had 50 youths in attendance, one plenary session, seven individual papers, a business meeting and an initiated process for developing youth strategy on space development on the continent. The event also featured a session on Women in Aerospace–Africa(WIA-A) with 26 participants, a business meeting,  and a proposition for an ASLC Woman in Space Forum, which was accepted. Furthermore, it served as a backdrop for discussions and assessments of the continent’s space programmes, human capital development, as well as the use of space for peace and collaborations.

In his keynote address on the first day of the event, Ethiopian Minister of Innovation and Technology and former Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Getahun Mekuria, called on all African nations to increase the use of space applications in decision-making, and to allocate 0.005 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product(GDP) to space. He cited that the industry is crucial to the future of a developed Africa.

Reiterating the importance of space at the opening of the conference, the CEO of the South Africa National Space Agency (SANSA), Valanathan Munsami, said 35 out of the 40 objectives of the African Union, that is about 90 per cent, require the use of space applications. In his address on Africa’s space future, Dr Munsami reinforced the need for ALC to provide collective knowledge and expertise to shape Africa’s policies and strategies.

The conference also featured a panel on governance, particularly, discussions on resourcing the Africa Space Programme: timeframes, the role of Africa versus international partners, amongst other issues, under the chairpersonship of South Africa Council for Space Affairs (SACSA) chairperson, Ms Pontsho Maruping. Other sessions and discussions were chaired by Ade Abiodun, Nana Klutse, Andre Nonguierma, Vivianne Meta, Mohamed El-Koosy, Mirjana Povic, Peter Martinez and Getachew Wollel.

The session on law and policy emphasised on unlocking the potential of Space technology in litigation- assessing the value of earth observation in supporting social, human and environmental justice in Africa and the involvement of youths in policy-making.

Resolutions at the conference included changing the name of the conference to the African Space Leadership Congress (ASLC) to reflect the growing scope and pace of developments in the African space arena. It was agreed that the congress will be held on a biennial basis, with SANSA hosting the next congress in Durban by the end of October 2021. 

An interim constitution for the congress was also adopted, alongside the proposal for the establishment of an ASLC Women Forum. The final constitution will be discussed and adopted at the next assembly in Durban, South Africa.

The conference also afforded entrepreneurs and vendors opportunities to sample their applications and solutions to interested buyers and investors through exhibitions.

The 8th ALC 2019 was co-organised by the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology, Ethiopian Space Science Society, African Union, and East African Regional Office of Astronomy for Development.