In DepthThe QuestionShould African governments fund space programmes?


Posted on Thursday, 09 January 2014 16:59

Should African governments fund space programmes?

Nigeria plans to train an astronaut by 2015 and now has three functioning satellites in orbit that are used for communications and scientific research. People at home and abroad have questioned the government's priorities.


Yes Of Africa's major oil exporters, Nigeria has arguably been one of the most successful at achieving a stable, diversified economy. In order to [do this], Nigeria has had to invest – in its infrastructure, its resources and its people. The expansion of its so-called space programme, which is in fact a series of investments in satellite communications technology, plays an important part in its diversification efforts. Data collected from the programme over the past 10 years has already been put to good use. In Lagos, for example, satellite images have helped inform urban planning and tax collection, as well as manage the rapidly growing population of Africa's second-largest city. This continued investment in science and technology is crucial if countries like Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, want to genuinely compete on a global scale. Having been fortunate enough to secure a place on Virgin Galactic's first mission to space, I am a huge advocate of all things space related. By making Africa a part of the 'space race' rather than an outsider looking in, I hope we can inspire a new generation of African scientists with big, boundless ambitions. ● Ashish Thakkar, Founder, Mara Group, Uganda



No A government that could not raise N57bn ($356m) to complete its 2009 allowances agreement with the university teachers, why should it raise funds for a space programme? We have 10.5 million children out of school, and we need Gordon Brown and a United Kingdom charity to help us. We abuse public resources. If you look at the structure of the Nigerian federal government's actual expenditure of $25bn, the biggest chunk goes to recurrent expenditure, which consists of salaries and running costs of ministries and public utilities. Less than 18% is actually spent on capital expenditure by the federal government. We are one of the three nations with polio incidences in the world; why not commit to quickly end that? What about the power transmission infrastructure that we are raising debt to improve? What happened to capital investments in our refineries to improve them? We have agriculture graduates without access to capital to kickstart their dreams. There are many issues within Nigerian society begging for resources. We choose the luxury and the glossy one. Nigeria is rich in resources, but its people are not rich. There are 16 million unemployed people in Nigeria. Will a space programme lift people out of poverty and provide jobs on a large scale? Funding a space programme is for image laundering. ● Oluseun Onigbinde, Co-founder, BudgIT, Nigeria

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