KSEC 2024: Kenya Positions itself as a Strategic Partner in the Future of Space Exploration

Brigadier Hillary Biwott Kipkosgey. Source: Kenya Space Agency

KSEC 2024: Kenya Positions itself as a Strategic Partner in the Future of Space Exploration

The second edition of the Kenya Space Expo and Conference 2024 (KSEC2024), hosted by the Kenya Space Agency at the Edge Convention Centre, took place from June 18 to 20, 2024. The three-day event attracted over 400 delegates and featured keynote speeches, interactive sessions, panel discussions, and unique networking opportunities.

The conference brought together various stakeholders, including government representatives, policymakers, academia, representatives of space agencies, international organisations, and young professionals from at least 12 nations. This interactive forum showcased current projects and innovations, providing opportunities for networking and collaboration within the African space ecosystem. In addition, the conference attracted exhibitors from leading companies in the global space industry, with representation from Bulgaria, China, France, India, Italy, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), and other countries.

The Cabinet Secretary for Defense, Honorable Aden Duale, officially opened the Space Expo and Conference, announcing 15 fully funded PhD scholarships in Earth Observation for Kenyan nationals. These scholarships, supported by the Italian Republic, will commence in September. 

Kenya Strengthens Space Collaboration with New Initiatives and International Partnerships

Kenya is actively seeking collaboration opportunities for the peaceful use of outer space with several regional and international partners, including Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Sudan. The goal is to develop indigenous capacity in space systems engineering and enhance the use of space services, technologies, and applications in socioeconomic development through joint projects. For instance, in collaboration with Egypt and Uganda, an imaging system designed to monitor climate change will be installed on the International Space Station.

The Cabinet Secretary also announced plans to establish several key facilities at the Luigi Broglio Malindi Space Centre in Malindi. These include a Centre for Earth Observation, an International Training Centre for Space Education, and a Centre for Cubesat Development, all in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency. These centres aim to enhance national and regional capabilities by training and mentoring the next generation of space professionals.

Source: KSA

Furthermore, the Kenya Space Agency (KSA) is set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to advance collaboration on the peaceful uses of outer space. The Indian High Commissioner to Kenya, Ambassador Namgya Khampa, highlighted lessons from India’s space journey, which she stated is characterised by high scientific achievement and frugal engineering. “India has achieved high returns on investment, such as the mission to the South Pole of the moon, which cost USD 75 million, largely due to ISRO’s policy on frugal engineering,” she noted.

Proposed Recommendations

The conference panellists recommended that the government support the private sector in developing innovations for downstream applications, recognising the significant potential for data commercialisation across various sectors. Speaking on one of the panels, Telkom CEO Engineer Mugo Kibati emphasised the need for greater public awareness to promote the sector and noted that the telecommunications industry is prepared to partner with the KSA to address specific needs. In addition, funding models and strategies were discussed, with recommendations from other countries provided to the KSA and the Government of Kenya on how to de-risk the sector.

Key takeaways included a call to enhance national capabilities in space science, particularly by breaking down barriers to women’s entry into the field and promoting STEM education. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), women make up only 20-22% of professionals in the space industry globally. 

Finally, KSA announced that Kenya will host a Space4Women Global Expert Meeting in collaboration with UNOOSA in November 2024, and encouraged greater participation of women and girls in the advancement, utilisation, and development of space science, technologies, and applications in Kenya.