Access to space is an increasingly relevant topic due to the growing number of planned satellite constellations and the need to ensure autonomy in this field, even more so given recent global geostrategic challenges. So much so that, for example, the African Space Strategy highlights the importance of developing independent launch capabilities in Africa. In the EU, too, the issue of access to space has become a key element of financial and regulatory policies, as evidenced by the emphasis placed on the acquisition and aggregation of launch services in the Union's Space Programme.

In this context, some African countries have also been exploring or investing in launch centres.

For example, in January 2023, the Republic of Djibouti announced the construction of the first spaceport in Africa. The signature of a Memorandum of Understanding with HKATG (Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group Limited) and Touchroad International Holdings Group aims to develop an international commercial spaceport, which could represent an investment of around USD 1 billion over the course of five years. This milestone could signal a paradigm shift in the African space sector, as this spaceport would be the first in operation in Africa, which is currently the only continent in the world without a launch centre.

The possibility of setting up a spaceport in Kenya has also been weighed in different scenarios. For example, in December 2022, the Prime Cabinet Secretary of Kenya met with Orion Applied Science & Technology with a view to exploring possible areas of cooperation, including the establishment of an equatorial spaceport.

Somalia has also been touted as a potential launch centre site, with Turkey planning to build a launch centre in the African country to support its space programme, which includes the goal of sending unmanned missions to the moon by 2028.

Cabo Verde also highlighted the goal of leveraging its geostrategic location to install a launch centre, an issue mentioned in its National Space Policy Strategy (ENPE) proposal as announced at an ENPE event held in 2021.

The development of instrumental infrastructure for access to space is also being considered in Africa: the African Space Strategy outlines the goal of developing ground segments for telemetry, tracking and command, with several countries installing ground stations for this purpose.

Indeed, several African countries are optimally located to access space and launch space objects. These countries should therefore ensure that they adopt the necessary policy and legislative frameworks for the construction, operation and exploitation of spaceports, taking into account, among other things, the nature of the ports (e.g. public, private or public-private partnerships), the models for access to the activity (e.g. through licensing or public procurement processes), the relationship with launchers (e.g. ports open to more than one launcher or not), the type of launch (e.g. horizontal or vertical launches, orbital or suborbital launches), the applicable requirements (e.g. environmental, safety and airspace occupation requirements), the services to be provided, and the funding to be allocated. The approach to other launch-related aspects, such as launchers and telemetry and tracking ground stations, should also be defined. In addition, launcher return centres are becoming increasingly relevant given the advent of reusable launchers, an aspect which African States should also begin to consider.

The private sector, as well as States pursuing space activities, may thus find in Africa an alternative to the current launch centres, ensuring a greater frequency of launches whenever needed. The construction and operation of spaceports also present opportunities for the private sector of launch centres and launchers, and could be used to develop innovative activities and products through the integration of new technologies (such as artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous systems, 3D printing and digital twins) that are environmentally sustainable. Turning to Africa for the installation of ground stations is also an option to be explored considering the geostrategic position of countries and companies' business objectives.