2020 in Review – Gabon Space Program

In line with Space in Africa’s 2020 in Review series, we had a chat with Dr Aboubakar Mambimba Ndjoungui, Deputy General Manager of Agence Gabonaise d’Etudes et d’Observations Spatiales/Gabonese Studies and Space Observations Agency (AGEOS) on what the Agency has been up to in 2020 and what to look forward to in 2021.

What are the milestones achieved by AGEOS in 2020?

In 2020, AGEOS successfully installed its new 3 meters antenna which will be used mainly for the weather data acquisition, as part of the SAWIDRA (RARS) project. Also, the positioning of AGEOS in the Central African region is helping to monitor projects around cross-border areas, constituting an important stage in its establishment as a development tool for all the countries in the region.

What are the success stories from your ongoing projects? (RARS, CAFI, GMES & Africa)

  • RARS (Regional Advanced Retransmission System): Being part of the project was a great opportunity for AGEOS’s engineers as they were able to acquire new technical knowledge. After 3 years, the operational phase of the project has started and this will be a new step to develop other technical knowledge and new products.
  • Regarding the other projects, AGEOS has just completed the production of the 2015 land use map and is currently working to update the changes that have occurred between 2015 and 2020.
  • For the other project such as GMES and CAFI, they are still in progress.

Any significant progress on the Gabon National Space Policy?

The Gabon space policy is still in the development stage. Some national stakeholders are mobilized to take part in the development of this important document. We are planning a first presentation in the first quarter of 2021 which will allow us to refine the document with all the national players.

How much impact does the pandemic have on the project implementation and how were you able to mitigate this?

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly slowed the implementation of activities. In particular, the GMES & Africa and CAFI (Central Africa Forest Initiative) projects where field activities are involved have not been carried out to date. We have unwittingly suffered big delays and a large part of the implementation of these projects relies on trips to the field. Activities not requiring travel could be implemented using teleworking and teleconference tools.

What are the plans for 2021? what are the new milestones you are set to achieve in the coming year?

In 2021, we will focus on ongoing projects and capacity building:

  1. Make progress in the implementation of the CAFI project, particularly in its field component,
  2. Continue and finalize the implementation of the GMES & Africa project with the production of services and field validations,
  3. Finalize Gabon’s space policy document,
  4. Develop tools on flood risks, road infrastructure monitoring, mangrove monitoring, healthcare provision, monitoring the implementation of the SDGs and climate-related products.
  5. Consolidate documentation on the GabonSat-1 satellite and launch calls for tenders. This first satellite will give Gabon the opportunity to have its own satellite in order to reach its objective to have access to space by 2030.