Low uptake of space technology science slows Africa’s growth: experts

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Source: Xinhua

NAIROBI, July 1 (Xinhua) — Failure to fully adopt space technology education is to blame for Africa’s slow development, a university don has said.

Dr. Faith Karanja, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Department of Geospatial and Space Technology said the universities need to make a paradigm shift and incorporate practical oriented courses such as space technology to change the development path of the continent.

“We have to develop curricula that stand to address local problems such as space technology to address the needs of the continent’s growing population,” Karanja said on Friday at the conference on space technology in Nairobi.

She said that even though space technology is costly to adopt, it has long term benefits that is capable of revolutionizing the continents development.

The university don noted that elsewhere space technology has been used in producing a flare that safely destroy land mines by reducing propellant waste without negatively impacting the environment.

“Space technology has created new markets and new technologies that have spurred global economy and changed lives in many ways. Africa should not be left behind in adapting this technology too,” Karanja told the delegates.

She called on the universities to consider overhauling their curriculums and stop teaching traditional theoretical subjects by replacing them with the once that are capable of promoting innovation, adding that the success of a university is determined by how it impacts on the society.

The don revealed that space technology is now generating profits for businesses in a multitude of other markets such as medical innovations, coming up with engineering solutions and wildlife technology.

“The universities must start repositioning by redesigning the curricula with the aim of solving local problems since the global market currently requires graduates who are creative and innovative,” she added.

Karanja revealed that only a few universities out of the registered 24 public universities in Kenya are offering courses on engineering, geo-informatics, remote sensing, natural resource and earth science but not space technology.

All the public universities in Kenya are also offering computer sciences courses while the private universities who lack capacity in teaching hard sciences only offer social science courses.

“Due to the unavailability of resources, all that African universities need to do is to develop partnerships for technical support and continental linkages,” she said.

He revealed that the University of Nairobi (UoN) has developed a new charter on how long a curriculum takes before it is reviewed. This trend has reduced time for review and helps put the curriculum in practice.

The University of Nairobi is currently partnering with Rome University by funding studies in space science.

According to Professor Fabio Santoni of the Rome Universities Department of Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering, the program started in last year and will take three years.

“Students from UoN and Rome will be interchanging during the period to define needs for their own countries,” he added.

Through this partnership, Kenya is in the final stages of establishing a space centre, the equivalent of National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) agency, a project that will propel Kenya to the elite club of a few countries in the world that own earth observation satellites.

The presence of the centre within Kenya involves the possibility to carry out launch activities, data acquisition from satellites, remote sensing and training activities both in Kenya and in Italy.

Delegates at the conference observed space technology is capable of detecting unusual human presence in national parks and could allow anti-poaching units to identify, locate and ultimately arrest poachers.

They called for the adoption of high resolution radar satellites to help combat wildlife crime by detecting vehicles and other equipment as they move under forest cover, or during the night.