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Rwanda Considers Building Cubesat; Mulls Proposing Regional Satellite Cooperation

Patrick Nyirishema, Director-General of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). Photograph courtesy of The East African, credit Cyril Ndegeya.

Patrick Nyirishema, the Director-General of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), told a workshop on space regulations in Kigali – the capital city of Rwanda – that the small African country is looking at developing its own small communications satellite, and is also mulling the possibility of proposing a regional satellite with six other East African countries, according to a report by Africanews.space.

The Kigali space workshop was run by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) last week.

“Definitely, satellite is very important particularly for [Sustainable Development Goals] SDGs, we need to have the means to link various parts of work, to monitor targets, to collect required data from across the continents, analyse it and help to inform policy and regulation and all development interventions,” Nyirishema said.

“African countries acknowledge ICT as a pillar for socio-economic growth. And, satellites play a key role in connecting Africa to the rest of the world,” he added.

Referring to the role of satellites in bridging the digital divide in developing countries, Nyirishema told the workshop participants that,“This [ITU] workshop is very important not just for Rwanda but for the East African region and the continent in general because satellite is a critical and important technology for communications. Africa is a large continent and a very big part of Africa relies on satellite to be connected to the rest of the world, whether it’s for TV, Internet or communication in general.”

Mr. Nyirishema then announced that Rwanda is examining whether it should fund and build its own Cubesat or microsatellite, saying, “We (Rwanda) are already looking at getting involved with CubeSat and Microsatellites. This is a trend, we have seen some countries do that and we are exploring that, we are taking steps towards that. But that leads to a bigger objective, which we hope that, as continent, we can organise ourselves to launch even bigger satellites and build a knowhow to do that.”

“We have realised that all the cost of being able to launch a satellite is going down. It’s not about the knowledge and resources but also it is about the process for the country to be able to successfully launch the satellite,” he added.

Mr. Nyirishema also announced that Rwanda intends to enter into discussions with neighbouring countries such as Kenya and Uganda about the possibility of pooling funds and other resources to build and operate a large communications satellite for use by all partner countries.

“We are looking at getting more countries or regional blocs or the continent working together to also get into the space-faring nations and to build own satellites. We are at a time when satellite launches are increasing and, as the East African region, we are looking at how to launch a regional satellite. We have put that in our strategic plan for the next three years to see what the six countries in the region can do to have own satellite for communication,” he announced.

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