Science and Technology Will Transform Africa: Ethiopia to Launch New Satellite in 2019

Finally, in recent years African nations and the African Union have embarked on the exciting and necessary use of space technology to advance their societies. Science and technology are the most fundamental drivers of economic growth. It is the discovery of new scientific principles of space that lead to breakthroughs in new technologies to transform the continent. For too long, Africa has been denied the “right” to use space science, and it no surprise that Ethiopia is in the leadership of this effort.

Ethiopia Will Have Its Own Remote Sensing Satellite, with Help from China

Nov. 27, 2018

Dawn breaks over a radio telescope dish of the KAT-7 Array pointing skyward at the proposed South African site for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope near Carnavon in the country's remote Northern Cape province in this picture taken May 18, 2012. South Africa is bidding against Australia to host the SKA, which will be the world's largest radio telescope when completed. Picture taken May 18, 2012.

As reported yesterday by Reuters, the government of Ethiopia announced that Ethiopia would have an Earth remote sensing satellite built in China and launched in September 2019.

China would pay $6 million for the design and construction of the satellite and the launch, toward the $8 million total cost. {The EastAfrican} weekly newspaper and on-line site reported that the satellite will be launched from China, but the command and control center will be based in Ethiopia.

Although according to the Reuters wire, the satellite will be used for “climate and related phenomena,” in fact, the data will also be used for agriculture, land use, and other necessary monitoring for the economy.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology released a statement on the future of the country’s space plans, and mentioned a number of African space projects. One of these involves China granting $550 million to Nigeria to purchase two satellites according to Quartz Africa multimedia website, which explains that China has “deepened its place in all spheres, economic and political. Conquering the space business and providing space mapping services is part of Beijing’s globe-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, with both state-run and private Chinese space companies selling made-in-China satellites abroad.”

Quartz Africa reports that “as satellites get smaller and cheaper, an increasing number of African nations are declaring their plans to look skyward. The African Union has also introduced an African space policy, which calls for the development of a continental outer-space program and the adoption of a new framework to use satellite communications for economic progress. The demand for satellite capacity is expected to double in the next five years in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Undoubtedly, as part of the “Space Silk Road,” China will be playing a leading role in bringing space technology to Africa.

Read: China to Help Launch Ethiopia’s First Satellite in 2019 

 

Ethiopia‘s Optimistic, But Challenging Path Forward

Lawrence K Freeman

August 3, 2018

On June 28, thousands upon thousands of smiling Ethiopians poured into the Washington DC convention center to listen to their new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. They began gathering in the morning hours before the noon starting time of the event. Standing for hours, on a line that snaked around the convention center, with the last of the crowd finally entering the hall at 3pm. I was fortunate to witness this joyous occasion. The entire ground floor hall of the convention center was filled, as far as the eye could see, by the Ethiopian community that came to celebrate the new leadership of their nation.

Only three days earlier on July 26, in Addis Ababa, Simegnew Bekele, the chief engineer of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-GERD, was found murdered in his car. His assassination was followed by a large funeral at Meskel Square where he was mourned by tens of thousands.  His body was taken to Holy Trinity Church where he was honored by being buried alongside Emperor Haile Selassie, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The juxtaposition of these events, an ocean apart, foretell the challenging course ahead for Ethiopia. A future brimming with optimism, but fraught with danger. There is more than symbolism involved.

Progress Under Attack

Engineer Bekele, in the minds of Ethiopians, embodied a true patriotic spirit, who led their nation forward. He will be remembered for his lasting commitment to develop Ethiopia into growing sovereign economy in the Horn of Africa. Before overseeing the construction of the GERD in 2011, he worked on the Gibe I and II dams. The completed Gibe III hydro-electric project generating 1,872 megawatts, has doubled Ethiopia’s power supply. When the construction of the GERD- 6,450 megawatts-is finished, Ethiopia will be the second largest producer of electricity in Sub-Sahara Africa behind South Africa. The multi billion-dollar GERD, is being built with help of China, but financed by Ethiopia. The GERD is on the Blue Nile close to the border of Sudan and will be the biggest dam in Africa at 1.8 kilometers wide and 155 meters high.

Ethiopia’s ambitions to create a modern-advanced economy and lift its 100 million people out of poverty is evident in its commitment to also expand its rail and road infrastructure. The operational Addis-Ababa to Djibouti electrified train (the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa) will transport manufactured goods from Ethiopia’s industrial parks, to the port of Djibouti for export. Their Growth Transformation Plan II (2014-2019) emphasizes Ethiopia’s intention to expand its manufacturing sector by 25%.

It is Ethiopia’s unwavering devotion to progress to “eliminate poverty, not manage it” that is the real target of Simegnew Bekel’s assassination. 

(Artist drawing of completed GERD, whose completion will allow Ethiopia to become an energy exporter)                       

Abiy’s Life Threatened

In a mere four months since assuming office in April of this year, the 42-year-old Prime Minster has created a fervor in the population, causing waves of unbridled excitement, not seen since the overthrow of the bloody Derg regime in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front led by Meles Zinawi.  In what is being called a revolution, Prime Minister Abiy has released thousands of political prisoners, reached out to all ethnic regions of the nation, and unexpectedly ended the state of war with Eritrea in a ceremony held in the Eritrean capital Asmara on July 8. By taking this giant step to normalize relations with its neighbor Eritrea after a generation of armed hostility, Prime Minster Abiy has now become a living symbol for peace and security in the Horn of Africa.

Let us not forget that a month before coming to the United States, Prime Minister Abiy escaped an assassination attempt when a grenade was thrown at a rally where he addressed millions of his fellow citizens.  Although he was not harmed, over one hundred were wounded and two died from this attack on June 23, in Addis Ababa’s famous Meskel Square.

Steeped in the ideas of Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia, unique among African nations, has demonstrated an understanding of principles fundamental to economic growth. To wit: the necessity for the state to direct public credit into vital categories of infrastructure necessity for the economic security of a nation (dirigisme). The government not only has the right, but the obligation to intervene into the economy to foster “pro-growth” polices that benefit the general welfare of its people. Ethiopia’s relative success in this effort has produced enemies internally, regionally, and internationally, who oppose any progress towards achieving economic stability in the Horn of Africa. Economic independence by Africa nations challenges the dominance of financial predators, who still view Africa as a pawn on their “geo-political” chessboard.

Author with Ethiopians inside DC Convention Center

Ethiopia Should Stay the Course

For many years there has been enormous pressure by the international financial community including the IMF to force Ethiopia to “liberalize” its economy by; decentralizing its economy, reducing regulations, allowing foreign investment in state-owned enterprises, and deregulating its banking system. Thus far Ethiopia has resisted, but under increasing duress, there are reports that some in the leadership of Ethiopia may be ready to open the floodgates to intrusions by international financiers, who are not interested in the welfare of the citizens.

Ethiopia, a poor country that suffered from a wrecked economy twenty-five years ago, has emerged as a leader on the Sub-Saharan continent. Ethiopia’s commitment to expanding its physical infrastructure has served the nation well, though it still faces serious impediments. Providing meaningful employment for the 500,000-young people, who are seeking to join the work force each year will remain a significant challenge. However, Ethiopia should not permit itself to be coerced into deviating from its thus far successful economic policy.

Interview with Sudan Foreign Minister