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Ethiopia Launches the First Space Program in East Africa


Image credit: Harvepino/Shutterstock

It would be not surprised to see that few countries in Africa have their own space programs, because this continent is regarded as the poorest and least developed regions in the world.

However, if you know that Ethiopia, one of the poorest and most populous countries in Africa, has succeeded in launching the first one of its kind in East Africa, you would not feeling so surprised.

Consisting of two telescopes housed within large dome structures, the center is located on top of the high MountEntoto, not far from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Initiated just several months ago, the building cost of the observatory was $3 million. Although it was modest for space research, it should be huge for a poverty-stricken, resource-poor country where famines were destructive and only $25 were spent on health services for one person each year.

As a country that has to get substantial assistance for the outside, for example, that from the UK’s Department for International Development, such endeavor might appear to be a huge waste of money at first glance.

Of course, it has been quite difficult for members of the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS) to persuade the officials to accept that it is worthwhile investing on the skies. But for the ESSS, it’s actually the longing for knowledge rather than making efforts to take part in the space race.

As Abinet Ezra, the communications director of ESSS said, science was part of any development cycle and nothing could be harvested without science and technology. The top priority of ESSS was to encourage more and more young people to be engaged in science and technology.

Although Ethiopia might be financially helped with its much-needed fund from the outside, it should not be regarded as a meaningless investment. As a matter of fact, the ESSS was getting financial aid from Mohammed Alamoudi, an Ethiopian-Saudi entrepreneur, aiming to turning the country into a society with much developed scientific culture, which allows Ethiopia to harvest the benefits accumulated from space science and technology.

At present, a lot of people still believe that the money should be better used somewhere, for instance, it should be spent on food, healthcare and infrastructure. However, immediate benefits have been gained by the center. The equipment could enable university students majoring in astrophysics to stay at home rather than travelling abroad for study, which could cost a large amount of money.

As the program is now fully supported by the relevant authorities, it is hoped that a satellite would be finally launched so as to improve communications and monitor farmland, because both sector would assist development.

Talking of its future development, Solomon Belay, the center director and professor of astrophysics said, being poor was not a boundary to begin with such program. And engineering and sciences would play a great role in transforming the country’s agriculture into industry.