On March 23rd, 2023 Senegal’s President Macky Sall announced the launch of the Senegalese Space Study Agency. This is a significant step for Senegal and the economically under-developed Western African region.
President Sall made the announcement during the premiere of an TV program episode titled “Star Chasers of Senegal” produced by the American public broadcaster PBS, as part of its well-known popular science TV program called NOVA. The documentary features Senegalese astronomer, Maram Kaire, who has been promoting astronomical sciences in Senegal, through his Dakar-based Senegalese Association for Promotion of Astronomy, for more than 15 years.
Senegal’s Minister for Education, Research and Innovation, Cheikh Oumar Anne, has already announced the country’s attempt to launch its first nano-satellite by the third quarter of 2023. The nano-satellite is currently under construction at the University of Montpellier in France.
The Senegalese announcement has come in the backdrop of Rwanda and Nigeria signing the Artemis Accords to participate in the US-led cislunar and interplanetary exploration multilateral. The two countries signed the Accord during the US-Africa Summit and the simultaneously held US-Africa Space Forum. Rwanda, of the two, established its space agency in 2020 and has forged strong relations with the US. The Rwandan Space Agency has issued a licence to Elon Musk’ Starlink satellite internet constellation for operating in the country beginning in 2023. Nigeria, on the other hand, already has operationalized Starlink services and by signing the Accords has forged strong partnership with the US. This partnership comes in the backdrop of Nigeria having been China’s – particularly China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s – first international customer, when the latter built and launched Nigeria’s first communication satellite, the NigComSat-1 in 2007.