Opportunities for US–Africa Space Cooperation and Development

March 31, 2022

The United States has a unique opportunity to establish enduring diplomatic, commercial, and security ties with African nations through space cooperation, with the potential to yield substantial development benefits. The African Union is preparing to open the African Space Agency. African nations are prioritizing the development of their own space infrastructure and applications – be it communications, remote sensing, or navigation/timing. The US space sector is robust, an area of comparative strength vis-à-vis Europe, Russia, and China. The US could work with African nations to reinforce a rules-based order in space, implement greater inclusivity in the space sector, and accelerate achievement of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

A Space Development Program could include building and launching satellites, but its first objective should be to maximize the utility of space-based resources (e.g., orbits and frequency spectrum) and shared, publicly available, or commercial space applications, as an enabler of the Partner’s national and economic interests.

To move forward, the US should develop a whole-of-government approach to US-Africa space cooperation and development, with a clear lead agency and a specific point of contact for foreign States. The US should expand bilateral and multilateral space cooperation and assistance, and specifically pilot a space development program in Africa. To support the most efficient and fair use of space resources, the US should increase support for African nations in managing their spectrum. Lastly, the US should raise internal and African awareness of US space-related support to the public good and clarify its intentions for the space ecosystem.

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