By Nuru Ahmed

Ethiopia launched its first satellite into space to encourage scientific innovations. More sub-Saharan African nations strive to develop space programs to advance their development goals.

On Friday, 20 December, 2019 senior officials and citizens gathered at the Entoto Observatory and Research Center north of the capital of Addis Ababa to watch a live broadcast of the satellite’s launch from a space station in China.

Mr Demeke Mekonnen Deputy Prime Minister said at the event launch, “this will be a foundation for our historic journey to prosperity”.

Ethiopia is among the eight countries to launch a satellite in 2019. Another eight satellites were put into orbit by the same rocket including an earth observation satellite developed by China and Brazilas part of a bilateral program. This is seen as a template for broader cooperation for countries like Russia, India and South Africa.

The African Union adopted a policy on African space development in 2017 and declared that space, science and technology could advance economic progress and natural resource management on the continent.

“Space is food, space is job creation, a tool for technology…..sovereignty, to reduce poverty, everything for Ethiopia to achieve universal and sustainable development,” said Solomon Belay the General Director  of Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute.

Ethiopia’s wide-range, multi-spectral remote-sensing micro satellite will be used for weather forecast and crop monitoring said the officials.

The remote sensing satellite of Ethiopia manufactured in collaboration with the Chinese government and Ethiopian engineers in china is fitted with a high resolution camera.

A team of Ethiopian government officials and journalists witnessed the launch on Friday 20 December, 2019 at China Space Station, 500 kilometers from the capital Beijing.

Twenty one Ethiopian Scientists and engineers worked on the project including engineers from China. Twenty Ethiopian engineers were trained in China on how to process the data collected by the satellite according to the Ministry of Innovation and Technology of Ethiopia.

Eng Getahun Mekuria, Minister for Innovation and Technology of Ethiopia said the satellite will gather information on weather forecasting. This will benefit Ethiopia’s agriculture and mining industries among others.

Eng Getahun said Ethiopia aims to fully design, build and launch a satellite by its own engineers in the future according to.

“Currently as a nation, we are spending a lot in foreign currency for transponder satellite renting. In order to avoid such huge recurrent spending in the future, we are working to build our own satellite within three to four years’ time” Eng Getahun said.

The engineer indicated that if Ethiopia achieves the target within four years’ time, the country will be able to serve other East African countries.

“We have finalized feasibility study on how to generate satellite services to neighboring countries,” he added.

The communication and information satellite is capable of gathering information in mining areas, environmental, climate issues, communication technology, agriculture among other earth observatory purposes.

The information receiver station is built in Entoto, a hill in the northern part of Addis Ababa. Although the satellite was built in China, it will be launched Ethiopia. Entoto Observatory and Research Center is the control center that was set up on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. 

Ethiopia’s Innovation and Technology Ministry organized a special public event at Meskel square on the same day to celebrate the first satellite of their country. The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense fired 21 gun shots salute as the nation marks the milestone.

The move by the country is the latest example of space ambitions by a number of African nations. The minister disclosed initial date of December 17was postponed to 20 because of unfavorable weather in the Chinese city.

 Announcement of the launch was made in November at a joint press briefing by the Minister of Innovation and Technology, Minister and Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute General Director Solomon Belay.

The Minister said Ethiopian engineers took part in the satellite construction. Ethiopia had twenty one scientists who worked on the ETRSSI project of which five are women. Authorities say it shows a tremendous progress in empowering women in particular and scientists in general in the Horn of Africa nation.

An Ethiopian delegation comprised of high level officials from the ministry of Innovation and Technology, members of parliament, Ethiopian scientists witnessed the Ethiopian satellite going to space from China.

The 72 kilogram multi-spectral remote sensing satellite of Ethiopia was the 99 satellites that were launched in 2019 by world countries.

The satellite with manly observational purposes is expected to provide all the necessary data on climate change and weather related phenomena that would be used for agriculture, forestry and natural resources conservation activities.

Eng Getahun Mekuria, said the satellite will be positioned at 80 degrees latitude around Ethiopia and East and West African countries. The satellite will arrive at its orbit after travelling 700kilometers in 30 minutes. It will begin sending information immediately it is learned.

Ethiopian space scientists will have complete command and control over ETRSSI at the Entoto Space Observatory Facility located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

High level government officials, religious fathers, regional presidents and space scientists attended the monitoring controlling activities of the satellite at the Entoto Space Observatory Facility.

In April 2019, Dr Abby Ahmed the Ethiopian Prime Minister visited the China Academy of space technology the prime developer of the satellite to inspect work done on the project.

Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali, Ethiopian Prime Minister was the Noble Prize Winner of 2019 for creating peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. He gave a lecture on 10 December 2019 at the Oslo City Hall, Norway.     Dr Abiy Ahmed was prized for his work in lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners and increasing the role of women in political life.

He also contributed to peace and reconciliation in East and North East African countries. He also built democracy among journalists and the Ethiopian citizens. But his most significant accomplishment was making peace with neighboring Eritrea for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.