The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit took place in mid-December and it proved to be an important meeting of minds in several aspects. One of the ideas that came to fruition at the summit was the first-ever U.S.-Africa Space Forum. The Space Forum was an opportunity for the United States to highlight its commitment to its partnerships with African countries regarding the peaceful exploration and use of space. In what would be a holistic benefit for the globe, the forum served as a space to forge U.S.-African partnerships that would effectively tackle modern-day challenges such as climate change and the extreme transformation of nature. It also served as a platform to deepen both scientific and commercial space cooperation.
The Space Forum saw Nigeria and Rwanda signing the Artemis Accords. According to a statement released by the White House, “The Artemis Accords are a set of principles to guide the next phase in space exploration, reinforcing and providing for important operational implementation of key obligations in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The Accords affirm the importance of implementing best practices and norms of responsible behavior as well as compliance with the Registration Convention and the Rescue and Return Agreement.” The two nations would be the first African countries to sign the accords. Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, signed the Artemis Accords on his country’s behalf while the CEO of Rwanda Space Agency Francis Ngabo signed on Rwanda’s behalf. The African dignitaries were joined at the signing of the Artemis Accords by Assistant State Secretary Monica Medina and officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Space Council. As of this reporting, 23 nations have signed the Artemis Accords.
The Forum also saw a discussion of the role the private sector would play in these partnerships. Several U.S. companies already announced investments between themselves and African countries. ATLAS Space Operations and the Rwanda Space Agency will work in tandem to bring a large satellite antenna and teleport to the global space community. There are companies that will be working towards the provision and analysis of satellite imagery to combat challenges brought forth by climate change. Planet Labs PBC is involved in such a project while ZEP-RE from Kenya will carry out similar work with the World Bank.
Nigeria announced that it will be the first African nation to make use of SpaceX’s Starlink. It will further boost Nigeria’s aim to provide its entire citizenry with broadband access by 2025. U.S. company Zipline will be utilizing space data to expand its drone operations in Rwanda, allowing it to provide more services to the Rwandan government. This expansion would allow Zipline to effectively carry out two million instant deliveries in the country. Zipline will also actively participate in the health, agriculture, finance, e-commerce, and tourism fields.