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Towards enhanced space cooperation, specifically in CubeSat satellite technology

On Thursday August 25th 2022, a workshop entitled "Space activities in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities” was held in the Tunis City of Science as part of the official side event programme of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development "TICAD 8". It was attended by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Mr. Moncef Boukthir, the Minister of Communication Technologies, Mr. Nizar Ben Naji, and the Vice President of Japan Space Agency, JXA, Mr. Yasu Ishi, along with numerous experts, representatives of institutions and institutional networks as well as associations active in this field in Tunisia.

Mr. Nizar Ben Naji opened the workshop by stressing the importance of holding it in parallel with the TICAD 8 Conference in Tunisia, stating that it is a good opportunity to discuss different social and economic issues with experts in this area. In addition, he stated that the African continent faces major issues, most notably the climate change’s impact on water scarcity, droughts, the food crisis and other problems that have negative repercussions on citizens.

With regard to these challenges, the Minister emphasized that the creation of spatially accurate and integrated information is a prerequisite to the development of a coordinated policy and strategy, stating that space technology is very important in building realistic, accurate and timely information.

Besides, the need to discuss space technologies, space data and space skills required legal frameworks, institutional development and space infrastructure to develop a national space data policy which could ensure an affordable, equitable, free and timely access to spatial data. The Communication Technologies Minister also stressed the importance of developing international partnerships and sharing experiences so as to reduce the technological gap, establish a framework of cooperation between and within continents and conclude mutual agreements between governmental space agencies.

The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Mr. Moncef Bouktheer, for his part, spoke about the importance of space technologies and their employment in various fields such as agriculture, health, environment and climate.

The Minister, who is also the Chairman of the National Committee for Outer Space, added that Tunisia aspires to establish a Tunisian Space Agency and that they are working on accomplishing this project. He added that: “We aspire to establish ties with other African countries that have space technology programmes." Mr. Moncef Bouktheer also focused on the importance of Japan's experience and expertise in this area.

The Vice-President of the Japan Space Agency, Mr. Yasu Ishi, reviewed the Agency's experience and prospects for cooperation with African States in this field, particularly those with already established space programmes such as Kenya, Rwanda Ghana, and Nigeria. He also spoke about the project to launch CubeSat in cooperation with Tunisia in 2023 for research and scientific purposes.

Tunisia is hosting the African-Japanese Conference on Cooperation in Cubic Satellite Technology after 3 months of coordination and intensive talks with the Embassy of Japan in Tunisia and the Japan Space Agency, and in cooperation with the Tunisian Space Association and the Private Higher School of Engineering and Technology in Sousse, according to the spokesperson for the Tunisian Space Society Ms. Ishraf Smaoui.

Ms. Smaoui stated that a formal cooperation agreement was signed between three Tunisian and three Japanese institutions in order to organize the first African-Japanese conference to promote cooperation in space, particularly in ‘CubeSat’ cube satellite technology, one of the most important means adopted by African countries to launch space industries.

The conference will be held on 26 August 2022 in the Tunis Science City, in parallel with TICAD8, with the participation of Africa's leading space leaders and with guests from many countries and global and regional organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union.