A growing number of African countries are investing in developing, launching and operating satellites to ensure their autonomy in such important areas as satellite communications and satellite imagery. Likewise, investment in positioning and navigation programmes is also drawing increased attention.

The African Space Strategy already signalled the goal of developing satellites in LEO and a communications satellite in GEO, having also mentioned the development of a constellation of high-resolution Earth observation satellites.

According to 2022 data, 14 African nations had already launched upwards of 50 satellites. Other countries have been planning satellite launches: for example, Egypt launched the Horus-1 Earth observation satellite in February 2023 and Horus-2 in March 2023, Ethiopia is preparing to launch its third satellite (ETRSS-2), and Botswana and Zimbabwe have announced plans for new satellites in 2023. In March 2023, Angola announced the construction of the country's first Earth observation satellite, Angeo-1, which will be built by Airbus. More than 100 satellites are planned for development by 2025.

Other relevant initiatives are also worth mentioning: for example, following Rwanda's announcement, in 2022, that it would be launching a constellation of satellites by the end of 2023, and the submission of a request to ITU to put approximately 330,000 satellites into space, in February 2023 it was announced that StarLink would launch satellite Internet services in the country. The licence awarded meets the objectives of Rwanda's recently revised National Broadband Policy and Strategy.

In Angola, following the launch of two satellites (ANGOSAT-1 in 2017 and ANGOSAT-2 in 2022) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, the country authorised, through Presidential Order no. 11/23, of 23 January 2023, the commercialisation of the ANGOSAT-2 satellite services, which will cover the entire African continent and a significant part of Southern Europe, ensuring almost complete coverage of Southern Africa.

And, in December 2022, the Federal Government of Nigeria inaugurated DELSAT-1, an integrated military satellite, whose purpose is to enhance the operational security capability of the Nigerian armed forces.

Countries' satellite development is clearly an important step in the pursuit of national objectives, notably those related to sustainable development, helping to ensure connectivity (including in remote areas) and minimise the digital divide, empower national human resources (including through small satellite and cooperative projects), and enable the development of appropriate policies and the Public Administration's exercise of its duties (e.g. in the fields of land use planning, in combating climate change, in agriculture, in security, among others).

These State space activities should, in any case, be carefully developed and duly supported by political and legislative frameworks that ensure compliance with international principles and obligations, such as the registration of the space objects launched. They should also, if applicable (notably in the case of external acquisition of services, such as the construction of satellites), be governed by contractual models that ensure, amongst other aspects, a clear definition of the scope of the agreed work; delivery deadlines (which is fundamental considering the ITU deadlines for placing satellites in orbit after the assignment of orbital slots); conditions for inspection, acceptance and transfer of ownership and risk; fault correction and technological updating with a view to ensuring that the satellite, at the time of launch, complies with best technological practices; liability and insurance; export licences; price; and intellectual property, technology transfer and know-how (with a view to ensuring autonomy for the satellite's operation). The provision of launch services should also take into account relevant aspects, such as: details of the services to be provided; the launch schedule and any adjustments for situations that may occur (e.g. weather conditions); liability and insurance, including for failed launches; post-launch service provision; export licences; and price and payment.

Satellites can also be developed through international partnerships. International cooperation is particularly relevant for emerging countries that do not have the technological means for complex space projects, thus allowing them to carry out more costly missions, share the risk, and acquire training, know-how and expertise. For example, the satellites launched by Uganda and Zimbabwe in late 2022 were developed in cooperation with Japan, Angola signed a space agreement with Japan in March 2023, and a memorandum of understanding was signed also in 2023 by Egypt and Belgium for cooperation in space, including in satellite development.

African countries' investment in satellites also represents a very interesting opportunity for the private sector, not only to provide services related to the construction and launch of satellites, but also to provide downstream services (such as data analytics services, data sharing services and platforms, cybersecurity services, communications and satellite navigation services) and to develop digital tools in different contexts (e.g. distance education, telemedicine, e-commerce, mobile payments, or location services).

In addition, several African countries are working on legal frameworks to test new technologies (regulatory sandboxes), which can and should be leveraged in the development of innovative approaches in the space sector.