Nigeria’s bid to send its local astronauts to the moon by 2015 should be lauded. Already, the country has set up a launch site with a 20-kilometre launch capability in Epe, Lagos State, and dispatched 12 engineers from the National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA) in China for training.
The country has three satellites in orbit and two earth-observation satellites. These track crops and weather around the country, monitor the oil-rich Niger Delta where there has been massive crude oil theft and environmental damage from oil spills, generate very high resolution images used for urban planning and provide cross border surveillance information.
The move by Nigeria should send Africa's policy makers back to the drawing board to deliberate on how the continent can stop spending on services it can locally provide. In 2007, for example, the late Muammar Gadaffi sponsored and funded US$300 million of the total cost of $400 million for the African Telecommunication Satellite Project. This saved Africa the $500 million in annual fees plus compounding interest it was paying Western corporations for Satellite services.
Africa largely depends on foreign companies for early warning systems on floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes, among others. Furthermore, none of the companies that have a stronghold on the Internet have their origin in Africa. Following the Nigerian example, capabilities to develop these should be considered and adopted. As this is done, respective African countries must however prioritize improving the living standards of their people first.