South Africa Makes Plans to Launch Communication Satellites

The South African government is fast-tracking plans to develop local satellites for connectivity and tracking. This is according to the Nation’s Communications and Digital Technologies minister, Khumbudzo Ntshaveni.

Addressing a technology conference, Ntshaveni said the department is considering ways to condense the satellite programme. Typically the programme would take between eight and ten years to develop. According to her, the revised programme could be ready to launch in just three to four years. The minister said that this will depend on funding, with the government hopeful that telecommunications and mining companies will help co-fund the project.

Furthermore, Ntshavheni has stated that they are targeting the financial year’s end to finalise the revised proposal. She noted that they had started engaging with industries and satellite technology users to discuss pulling resources together. “We already have, as a country, capacity through the space-tech to manage satellites. There are satellites that at a particular level or orbit level, their management is done from South Africa, so we’ve got that capacity so we can go all the way and own a satellite,” says Ntshavheni

Additionally, a President Cyril Ramaphosa-established commission had previously recommended that government build and launch a geostationary telecommunications satellite. The commission noted that it would offer its services to the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The SADC includes Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, Alongside South Africa

The commission also noted that the satellite would provide free and quality connectivity for marginalised communities in the SADC region. This would enable them to access 4IR applications, especially for smart health, smart learning services. It would also allow access to smart ammunition, smart minerals, smart agriculture, smart contracts and smart financial services.

“The satellite would create an enabling environment that opens opportunities for a shared economy that would empower all Africans to change their material social conditions and alleviate poverty, inequality and youth unemployment. We would create much-needed redundancy by large global enterprises,” it said. The commission also expressed that the geostationary satellite would also add value in setting up an African central exchange for voice, data and other communication media – and enable smart contracts for the African Continental Free Trade Agreements (AfCFTA)