‘Nigeria losing $50b yearly to underutilisation of space technology’
Nigeria is said to be losing about $50billion yearly from the underutilisation of space technology. The Space technology has been slated to be next frontier in this Fourth Industrial Revolution and unless Nigeria, takes the lead to harness this potential with: awareness, fixedness, empowerment of youths with skillset and education, and public-private partnership, the country will be colonised in the global economy.
Indeed, due to the space program inaugurated in the country in 2001 by President Obasanjo, the space opportunity in Nigeria in terms of business and the ecosystem is valued about $50billion yearly. These include the asset on ground and in space, which is roving about and untapped, Chief Operating Officer, IHS Tower, Femi Arosanyin, said at the Lagos Startup Week.
Speaking on the theme, NewSpace: Africa Commercial Space Sector Opportunity, Arosanyin noted that the country had launched five Nigerian satellites into the orbit: Nigeria SAT1¸ NigeriaSAT2, NigeriaSAT X, NigComSAT-1, and NigComSat-1R a replacement of NigComSAT-1 due to the mishap of NigComSAT-1.
“Today, the cost of NigComSAT at the time it was launched was N180billion, however it generates less than N1billion yearly, and we have only used three years from the 15-year life span of the satellite. Yet, despite the amazing projections of the satellite, the challenges we face at this level in Nigeria is because the awareness and fixedness of the government has waned compared to the likes of Obasanjo, who believes that Nigeria can become a space-faring nation.”
Speaking on partnership, he said: “Space has to be driven from the private sector. Every Nigerian owes it to the nation to be part of that $50billion.
We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution; -age of information, disruptive technologies and satellite technology can take us there.
The challenge is that we are yet to actualise it as the next big thing that can transform our lives. We have to become key players else someone else will.”
“At this moment, Google and Facebook will be launching satellites shortly from now. Those satellites are specifically tuned to harvest money from this part of the world. They are specifically going to be tuned to address connectivity issues in Africa, in Nigeria particularly. This is appalling to us as a country as we lag behind while those companies have figured where the money lies,” he stated.
Highlighting the need for skillset and education, Arosanyin noted, “it may interest you to know that Nigeria has the best sweet spot to launch a space vehicle in the world, here in Lagos. We have been positioned with human capital, intelligence which should be harnessed in this space.”
Corroborating him, Regional Partner, Africa technology foundation, Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, said: “Africa should take the necessary leap and not say space technology is too far-fetched else we may end up being colonised if we do not build required capabilities to become and become key players. Currently, governments of developed countries improve their space sector by ingraining the skillset and capabilities in the education sector. They give incentives like grants to encourage and galvanise that entire ecosystem in that space.”
Furthermore, he noted that opportunities lie in institutional challenges, for technology is all about solving the closet pinpoint by: providing access to tools, data, mentorship; foster experimentation; product feedback; fail fast, short development cycle; research and staff autonomy; long term university research infrastructure especially in our universities.
For Henry Ibitolu, who printed the first 3D telescope in Nigeria, emerging technologies and virtual reality is gradually changing lives. “Using space technology, I was able to design; model, and 3D print from space. I acquired this knowledge courtesy of an opportunity I saw online. Regardless, of the educational challenges, there are lots of accessible opportunities for self-empowerment to equip oneself with the right skillset in this economy, and we can make a difference with these skills.” He added that curiosity is essential to drive innovation.