South Africa has ambitious plans to build and launch its own satellites in the next 4 years: minister

Government is fast-tracking plans to develop South African-owned satellites that will focus on connectivity and tracking, says Communications and Digital Technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshaveni.

Addressing a technology conference on Monday (22 November), Ntshaveni said the department is considering ways to condense the satellite programme, which would typically take between eight and ten years to develop.

She said that this revised programme would hopefully be ready to launch in just three to four years. The minister said that this will be dependent on access to funding, with the government hopeful that telecommunications and mining companies will help co-fund the project.

“Of course we cannot afford to deploy only one satellite and as government, we will coordinate the efforts of South Africa’s industry and other interested investors to even deploy South Africa-owned low orbit satellites,” she said.

A commission established by president Cyril Ramaphosa has previously recommended that government build and launch a geostationary telecommunications satellite, which would offer its services to the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Alongside South Africa, the SADC includes Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

The commission said that the satellite would provide quality connectivity of marginalised communities in the SADC region, at no cost to them, so that they may access 4IR applications, especially for smart health, smart learning, smart ammunition, smart minerals, smart agriculture, smart contracts and smart financial services.

“The (satellite) would create an enabling environment that opens opportunities for a shared economy that would empower all Africans to change their material social conditions and alleviate poverty, inequality and youth unemployment. We would create much-needed redundancy by large global enterprises,” it said.

The commission said that the geostationary satellite would also add value in setting up an African central exchange for voice, data and other communication media – and enable smart contracts for the African Continental Free Trade Agreements (AfCFTA).

Read: Space junk is creating no-go zones for satellites

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South Africa has ambitious plans to build and launch its own satellites in the next 4 years: minister