Sudanese President Calls for African Space Agency

David Smith, Guardian (London), September 6, 2012

He would not be everyone’s first choice as an ambassador for Africa in outer space. The Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is wanted by the international criminal court on charges of war crimes but had other matters in mind when he addressed a regional conference on Wednesday.

“I’m calling for the biggest project, an African space agency,” Bashir told a gathering of communications ministers in Khartoum. “Africa must have its space agency.” It “will liberate Africa from the technological domination”, he said.

His call follows a controversial decision two years ago by the African Union (AU) to conduct a feasibility study that would draw up a “roadmap for the creation of the African space agency”.

Since then, African astronomers received a massive boost when South Africa was awarded the lion’s share of the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s biggest radio telescope, which will see dishes erected in nine African countries. But sceptics question whether a continental body in the mould of Nasa or the European Space Agency would merely add bureaucracy and financial burdens that the world’s poorest continent can ill afford.

A working document issued for the conference in Khartoum says the agency, called AfriSpace, would enable “co-operation among African states in space research and technology and their space applications”.

Only “a tiny minority” of countries presently control space technologies, which play a major role in everything from broadcasting to weather forecasting, agriculture, health and environmental monitoring, the document notes.

“A common continental approach will allow the sharing of risks and costs and ensure the availability of skilled and sufficient human resources. It will also ensure a critical size of geographical area and population required in terms of the plan of action for some space applications.”

AfriSpace would implement a long-term African space policy, recommend “space objectives” to member states and co-ordinate orbital slots and other space resources, the document adds.

Co-operation on space would be a notable breakthrough for a continent where political and trade barriers remain notoriously obstructive. It is hoped there would be spin-offs in terms of employment, skills and new technologies.

But Sarah Wild, a South African science journalist, said: “South Africa took years to get its own space agency up and running. It takes time and money. Personally I think an African space agency is a bit of a pie in the sky idea. I’d be interested to see where they get the resources and skills.”

Wild, the author of Searching African Skies, added: “Africa needs space projects but I think rather than the pomp and circumstance of an agency they should concentrate resources on projects that are already there.”

The plan has also run into trouble over its proposed name. The African Space Institute posted a message on its website stating: “It has come to our attention that the African Union are trying to make use of the name ‘AfriSpace’ for their African space agency.

“AfriSpace has been in use by the African Space Institute and Orbital Horizon since 2009 and we are the rightful users as well as recognised stakeholders in the space sector. We have requested a response from them on this matter and have offered to discuss further regarding the use of our used name.”

Africa is no newcomer to stargazing. In 1820 the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope became the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. In 2002, the IT millionaire Mark Shuttleworth flew on a Russian Soyuz rocket to become the first African in space.

An African space race is already under way. Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt each have two satellites in orbit while Angola has one. South Africa was unique in building its own but this is now out of communication. A Ugandan space scientist has begun building a test aircraft in his back garden.

On Wednesday a Pretoria-based Twitter user with the name Psyber Consulting posted: “AfriSpace?! Seriously—what about Afri-Feed-The-Poor!”

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  • I’m not sure why, but images of the Acme Rocket Company come to mind.

    • MekongDelta69

      “Beep, beep”

    • Puggg

       Such as this?

      I’m looking for YouTube of that African space program video historical footage, the one where they were doing deep knee bends to help them handle the low gravity on the Moon.

      • Up to my neck in CA
      • Up to my neck in CA

        Or Uganda’s space program

      • Up to my neck in CA

        Or the Noble rocket scientists of the Congo?

        • Puggg

           I was thinking. There is a serious proposal that the first people we send to Mars will stay on Mars, and take with them enough resources to start a colony and for on-site resource utilization. Maybe we can convince a certain subset of humanity that Mars is where they have to be in order to escape white racism and white privilege.

          • The__Bobster

            Bantus like hot weather. Better shoot for Venus instead.

        • SLCain

           The lead engineer seemed to think that putting a rat in a rocket that would be sent to an altitude of 36 km, with a peak speed of 3,000 km/h would be “putting a creature in orbit”.  Given that his knowledge of orbital mechanics is so deficient, I’m not surprised that his rocket blew up.  Then again, perhaps that was just a mis-translation.

    •  The only thing that comes to my mind is laughter.

    • MrGJG

      Good one CT.

  • Ulick

    “Good luck.”


  • Oil Can Harry

    The African Space Agency will consist of a Bushman standing on the edge of a see-saw while someone else (Wile E. Coyote?) on a cliff overhead pushes a boulder down onto the raised part of the see-saw.  

    Then again, maybe before blacks conquer space they should first LEARN TO FEED THEMSELVES?

  • haroldcrews

    Wow, where do you start?  Space flight and exploration is the pinnacle of a technological pyramid and Africa doesn’t even have a base or foundation of that pyramid built.  How many world class universities with top flight mathematics, engineering, material design and etc departments exist in the continent of Africa?  I’m thinking none since Apartheid ended.  Then an industrial base is also necessary unless everything is going to be built in Asia and then it wouldn’t really be an African program.  

  • Ahahahaha.  Funniest thing I’ve read all day.  

  • Ed_NY

    As I have said before, Africa is booming with innovation and cutting edge technology…….not!

  • Ed_NY

    When they fail, it will be the White man’s fault.  Racism will hold them back…again.

  • APaige

    They would never get past spinning rims for the yet to be built spaceship. That is some high hopes for people who never invented to wheel.

    • MekongDelta69

      That ‘short’ (old time expression) would be the most blinged out ride you’ve ever seen! It would put the pimpmobiles from the Shaft and Superfly days to shame.

      It woudn’t go anywhere of course, but they wouldn’t care. They’d be “stylin’ ‘n’ profilin’ brutha”.

  • Strider73

    Rats, you beat me to it. That’s definitely the most hilarious YouTube video I’ve seen! Believe it or not, it now has its own Wikipedia page.

    “It sure is (expletive deleted) cold up here!”

    Of course, we should all solemnly mark the anniversary of their first landing on the moon — September 31, 1966.

  • Ulick

    I know an African and we’ve discussed the African space program.  He assures me that the slingshot is coming together well.

  • IstvanIN

    Africa is no newcomer to stargazing. In 1820 the Royal Observatory at
    the Cape of Good Hope (white) became the first of its kind in the southern
    hemisphere. In 2002, the IT millionaire Mark Shuttleworth (white) flew on a
    Russian Soyuz rocket to become the first African in space.

  • RisingReich

    The president of Sudan who is wanted for war crimes says “Africa must have its space program” to liberate it from “the technological domination”.  This ‘African space program’ is called ‘Afrispace’.  On top of all of this ridiculousness the name ‘Afrispace’ is already taken.

    I’d normally ask at this point if the story is a joke, but I also recognize this is so absurd no one could possibly make up such a story if they tried.

    I wonder what’s next.  Tomorrow never disappoints.

  • This_Name_Doesnt_Exist

    Wonderful.  Afro-engineering in orbit.  Just what we need.
    A couple things to keep in mind.  Practically every African airline is flying second-hand Western aircraft, all closer to the edge of airworthiness than is acceptable in the First World.  The South African air force exists largely on paper because they don’t have the qualified pilots and skilled maintenance people to maintain it.  

    Extrapolate these things to an African space agency and it becomes clear that it would be a global danger.

  • Mahound

    Somehow I think they want the White Man to ultimately pay for this adventure. Oh well, we can always cut funding for NASA to support these folks’ project of pride.

  • KenelmDigby

    I think an African ‘Roads Agency’ would be more useful.
    Apparently, the whole vastness of Congo has markedly less paved road than Belgium.

    • chuck_2012

       only a few roads are passable and the rest are dirt trails in the jungle. Africans are not engineers  or builders and would rather let the whiteman do this mentally difficult work. Africans are indolent at best.

  • I’m thinking that getting that whole well water thing down cold might be a good first step. I mean, maybe if you’re not wandering around wondering where to get water, you might have more time for algebra, calculus and physics. But I’m no rocket scientist, so what the hell do I know.

  • JackKrak


  • chuck_2012

    I wonder how these countries in Africa, mired in poverty and backwardness, could ever conceive the idea of a space agency. A lack of resources, money, human talent and vision would make it a non-starter in my opinion. I just don’t think the african mentality is up to the intellectual challenges of going into space. Unless some western countries provide funds, staff, scientists etc then it is beyond them. Remember these are people that are not even able to record their own history, unable to build structures beyond the typical mud huts and have never constructed boats to explore the seas beyond the horizon. In fact South Africa is unable to find enough sailors to run their fleet of submarines which, because of mishaps, are all in drydock being repaired.

    • Ed_NY

      Well said Chuck!  The blacks can’t even maintain what the White man has built.  This is and has been the case from South Africa to Somolia to Haiti to Camden to Detroit…etc…etc….

    • KD_Did

      I was thinking the same thing. Some recent story said that South Africa’s submarines (all 3 )were in disrepair or sunk. This headline could be a joke. Like an old Benny Hill bit or something. There is just too much to laugh about here. Including the term “African Astronaut” 

       It “will liberate Africa from the technological domination”, he said.   

       I don’t even know what to say to that.

  • IstvanIN

     Of course they want the public to think that the Royal Observatory and Mark Shuttleworth are “Black-African”.  Whites are whites when they can be demonized for keeping the black man down.  They become “African” when it serves the purpose of making them look good.  Rather like calling the ancient Egyptians African.  In fact the History channel now does reenactments on their shows about ancient Egypt using black actors rather than North African, Arab or European actors to reinforce the idea that the blacks are “smart”.

  • IstvanIN

    Even if they manage to get to the moon the first thing they will do is trash the LEMs and hot-wire the Lunar Rovers left behind for a joy ride.  All the while asking on the radio “where is the whites wimmins”?

  • CharlesFinley


  • IstvanIN
  • MrGJG

    Sorry, but I’m getting a chuckle out of African Space Agency.  It makes me think of those “Dogs playing cards” pictures.

  • Pat Kittle

    Of course many here wouldn’t like this guy, but I’ve never heard him play the race card.

    When he talks astronomy it’s obvious he’s passionate about it and he’s paid his dues.

    Wish there were more like him:

    • IstvanIN

       He hosts NOVA on PBS.  Seems like a good guy.  I have nothing against smart blacks, although I think this guy has a white  mother.

  • The United States space agency awarded contracts to private aerospace businesses that were already in existence. In other words, the US  had the industries and technologies and the know how to for the government agency to purchase from. There are no such indigenous industries in africa. The governments would have to create every part of the puzzle , from materials technologies and manufacturers, to aerospace technologies and manufacturers, to computer technologies and manufacturers etc. Governments don’t innovate, they don’t create. They are bureaucracies. They waste money. There will be no home grown african space agency. The countries of africa have deteriorated since the white colonials left. All of modern technology is completely alien to africans. It was a veneer that had been applied by the colonials but has since worn off.

    • chuck_2012

       well said Morris! you are bang on about the veneer applied by the colonizing powers as being worn off a long time ago and the lack of industry, money and infrastructure. I wonder what they were on before making the space agency announcement?

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    LOL, pathetic and funny at the same time!!

    Is Stephen Hawking still rolling across the veldt searching Africa for the “next Einstein?”

    The world of science needs Africa’s brilliant talents and I look forward to meeting prospective young Einsteins from Africa!!   The Sunday Times  quoted Hawking as saying.

    Maybe they should learn to feed themselves first and stop using albinos for magic potions.


  • So how much is this “space program” going to cost us?

  • AmericanDave

    Now here’s something Bill Gates and Okrah Wimfrey can put all of their excess money behind. Okrah could have the African space port named after her. Bill could fund the African rocket scientists education program. Seed money should go toward developing a rocket launch program based on spear chucking.

  • The Worlds Scapegoat

    They first have to invent the wheel. Something tells me it will be a while before they accomplish that. The next thing they will need is mathematics.  Give that another 50,000 years.


  • The__Bobster

    But they’d have to be able to do that backwards.

  • zWsA

    I’ve heard of “flying pigs” but “AfriSpace” really takes the adynaton to a whole new level. Even if, by some miracle, Black Africans successfully land on the Moon, what will they do when they get there? How long would they search for extraterrestrial fried chicken before finally giving up?

    • Up to my neck in CA

      22 inch spinners on the Moon Rover yo!

  • Up to my neck in CA

    “…if they can consider wasting their money on self-aggrandizing stuff like this, they obviously don’t need our handouts.”


  • Up to my neck in CA

    This would save the US tax payers a lot of money!

  • Up to my neck in CA

    What a minute, are you saying the first people in space were the Native Americans, Africans and Chinese? You better go find a history book written before 1980, you’re the one with his facts all wrong! The first people in space were the Americans and Russians (read WHITE people).