The small East African nation of Djibouti has secured a reported $1 billion in funding from Hong Kong to kickstart its space programme.
The initial investment will see the establishment of a satellite and rocket launch facility, according to African Business.
The government of Djibouti inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hong Kong Aerospace Technology on the 9th of January after meeting with company vice president, Allen Fung.
The Hong Kong-based entity claims to be the first commercial aerospace company to specialise in satellite network engineering and production. Established in 2003, it operates five technical, manufacturing and data hubs countrywide.
A portion of the funding has been dedicated to the construction of a new port and highway system in Djibouti’s northern Obock region.
The new infrastructure will form a reliable and convenient logistics network for incoming raw materials and critical aerospace components from Hong Kong.
The construction of the satellite launch site could be complete as soon as 2027, president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, told media members.
The base will be co-managed by both MOU partners for thirty years before the contract and operational control is handed over to the people of Djibouti.
Djibouti’s low population and favourable geography make it an ideal location for rocket launches, with a minimum of ten square kilometres of open space needed to build the launch site.
Home to just over a million citizens and situated near the equator, rocket scientists can take advantage of the Earth’s rotational speed, saving significant amounts of fuel during launch phases.
Several other African countries have expressed interest in space programmes, including Kenya, which shares similar geographical advantages with Djibouti.
More than 20 African nations have established space programmes, 13 of which have developed satellites.
However, of the 54 launched by Africa, none have left orbit from the continent itself, according to the managing director of Space in Africa, Temidayo Oniosun.
Speaking with the press, Oniosun said he was hopeful Djibouti/Sino cooperation would foster the industry on the continent and result in the creation of new space-based enterprises in Djibouti and other places in Africa.
Africa’s space economy would grow 16.2%, from $19.5 billion in 2021, to an estimated $22.6 billion in 2026, according to the 2022 African Space Industry Report.
To date, South Africa has been a dominant producer of space components, particularly in the fields of fixed satellite services (FSS), mobile satellite services (MSS) and satellite television services.
The establishment of a launch site and satellite manufacturing facility in Djibouti could help countries like South Africa increase scale, said Oniosun.