09:00-09:30 An African Future in Space

Mr Kevin Govender, South Africa, Office of Astronomy for Development

Dr Michael Gastrow, Human Sciences Research Council

Mr Frederick de Ridder, NewSpace Systems


In the years prior to 1994, the Apartheid regime developed a space infrastructure, and was close to achieving launch capabilities. However, due to Western pressures at the time of democratisation, the state dismantled both its nuclear weapons programme and its space programme as part of a negotiated settlement. Since then, the skills and capabilities vested in the space sector have continued to play a role in the South African economy, underpinned by a fragmented but nonetheless vibrant sectoral innovation system. Today South African firms and research centres are active in the development of satellites and space system components for both local and international markets.

This raises the question of launch capabilities. The development of South African space launch capabilities would strengthen sectoral and national innovation systems, and hence build technological and economic capabilities. The sector has the potential to become internationally competitive (particularly in the lucrative communications satellite market) and thus attract foreign investment. Launch capabilities would provide for national sovereignty in space – an important issue in both the military and the ICT domains. All the BRICS countries (except South Africa) have launch capabilities as part of their geopolitical strategies. We thus ask the question: why should Africans not have a future in space?

Mr Kevin Govender, South Africa, Office of Astronomy for Development

Mr Govender is the director of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), an organisation jointly supported by the National Research Foundation and the International Astronomical Union. The OAD aims to use the cultural, technological and scientific aspects of astronomy to effect socioeconomic development. A nuclear physicist by training, Mr Govender led the SALT collateral benefits team for 5 years before being appointed as the founding director of the OAD. His leadership in the field has been recognised internationally through the award of the 2016 Edinburgh medal for Science and Society.

 

 

Dr Michael Gastrow

Dr Michael Gastrow is a Chief Research Specialist in the Education and Skills Development research programme of the Human Sciences Research Council. His research focus is on innovation, skills development, the public understanding of science, and science communication.  In his research he aims for an inter-disciplinary understanding of the interface between science, technology, and society. He is currently working on the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework for the Department of Science and Technology’s Science Promotion Directorate. Dr Gastrow is currently leading research into the human development aspects of the SKA telescope and will draw on this research to raise questions about the developmental impact of big science projects.

 

Mr Frederik T de Ridder

Frederik T. de Ridder has worked on investment projects – with a keen interest in technology projects and industrialisation –  across Africa, and specifically on space- and related technology projects in the United Kingdom and Europe. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Cape Town, and early-stage investor & principal in a specialist SME developmental capital provider in Johannesburg, active in over 25 industries with a focus on manufacturing and industrialisation. Frederik is also a Member of the International Advisory Board of ACUTRONIC AG based in Zurich with offices in the United States. Frederik holds an MPhil in Technology Policy from the University of Cambridge, and a BSc in Engineering in Civil Engineering from the University of Cape Town. He previously co- founded a non-partisan developmental organisation in South Africa showcased by Global Poverty Project’s ‘Global Citizen’ in July 2014 as one of Three Youth Movements Driving Change and featured by Vanity Fair in 2014. He presented at the One Young World global conference with former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, previously also contributing to Africa Program events at the Wilson Center in Washington DC and at the United States House of Representatives.