The emerging growth of the African space sector stems not only from recent commercial, scientific and technological developments, but also from the number of space strategies, programmes and agencies being created and developed. These strategies and programmes lay down a framework for States' goals and investment in the space sector – creating trust and transparency for the private sector – while space agencies play a pivotal role in supporting and identifying opportunities for companies.

In January 2023, the African Union Commission and the Egyptian government formally inaugurated the African Space Agency, based in Egypt. In light of the goals outlined in the 2063 African Union Agenda, as well as in the African Space Policy  and Strategy, the Agency, which was created as a body of the African Union, will lead the effective governance, promotion and coordination of space activities on the continent by implementing the African Space Policy and Strategy.

Among other tasks, the Agency should bolster space missions on the continent to ensure optimal access to space data, information, services and products, and develop a strong, sustainable, local space industry and services that meet the needs of the African continent. The African Space Agency is also tasked with supporting member States and regional economic communities (RECs) in developing their space programmes and building their space infrastructure. Under its Statute, the Agency should also coordinate a continental regulatory framework for space activities in Africa.

We further recall that the 2024 Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (which aims to transform Africa into a knowledge and innovation-driven society) expressly mentions space's role in the continent's socio-economic development. Likewise, the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa 2020-2030 seeks to prioritise and fast-track the continent's digital transformation by creating a digital single market by 2030 – and here, too, space technologies can play an important role.

Other initiatives, such as EIS-Africa, Africa GeoPortal, Digital Earth Africa and Africa Knowledge Platform, as well as the K4P Alliances, also illustrate the central role of space technologies and information in digital ecosystems, including in decision-making support processes.

Additionally, several African countries have been busy developing programmes and legal frameworks for the space sector and setting up space agencies.

On the one hand, in 2022, African nations earmarked a total of USD 534.9 million to develop and manage their space programmes, a 2.24% increase compared to the USD 523.2 million invested in 2021.

On the other hand, although only a few African countries have enacted legislation regulating space activities (South Africa or Nigeria, for instance), more and more countries are setting up space agencies: according to data from July 2022, 21 African countries had already set up and implemented their space agencies.

Other recent initiatives have been adopted by African countries.

Cabo Verde is a case in point. On the heels of announcing its national space strategy (which was publicly discussed in 2021), in 2023 the country established a defence partnership with Luxembourg to use satellite images for the surveillance and patrolling of the archipelago's territorial waters. Cabo Verde had already established other significant partnerships, such as its participation, through the Instituto do Mar (Sea Institute), in the AIR Centre (Atlantic International Research Centre), an inter-governmental initiative focused on space, climate, energy, oceans, and data.

Angola is another good example. In the context of its national space strategy, coordinated by the National Space Programme Management Office, the country inaugurated its Satellite Mission and Control Centre in January 2023. In addition, during the Europe-Africa Space Earth Observation High-Level Forum event, Mozambique announced the adoption of actions with an impact on space, including the goal of creating a space agency in the country.

African countries are also positioning themselves internationally in this sector. For instance, UNOOSA’s “Space Law for New Space Actors” project (an initiative aimed at promoting technical advisory and monitoring missions to emerging space actors, to help develop their capabilities in the field of space legislation, regulation and policy) has recently welcomed the involvement of countries such as Kenya (where there will be a technical advisory mission in 2023) and Angola.

Furthermore, countries such as Nigeria and Rwanda signed the NASA Artemis Accords in 2022, indicating the preponderant role that international initiatives are beginning to play for African States.

Other bilateral cooperation initiatives also stand out, such as the signature in January 2023 of a memorandum of understanding/space agreement between Algeria and Italy, the renewal of the partnership for lunar exploration between South Africa and the United States of America, the execution of a strategic agreement between Egypt and India, expanding the already existing cooperation between the two countries in space matters, and the strengthening of the strategic cooperation between Mozambique and Venezuela in space matters.

The development of space policies, strategies and programmes, the establishment of space agencies, the creation of laws regulating space activities, and the establishment of partnerships all play a pivotal role in promoting space activities and leveraging opportunities in the sector, ensuring Africa's autonomy in space matters. To this end, it is crucial to ensure that the policy and legal framework created fosters innovation and entrepreneurship, attracts foreign investment and companies, and takes into account the recent security and cybersecurity, sustainability, and digitalisation challenges. Digital policies, laws and approaches are also core for the development of the space sector, enabling it to leverage technologies such as artificial intelligence, DLT/blockchain, the Internet of Things and Big Data to improve processes and decision making. Similarly, space products and services play an integral role in the digital transition across all sectors of the economy.

The private sector should also take advantage of these advances in the African continent to expand its commercial activities and offers, as well as partnerships and joint projects: the growing demand for space products and services, incentives and support for space activities, the development of upstream space activities, and investment in digitalisation create unique opportunities for companies, which must therefore position themselves to take full advantage of this dynamic sector.