African Union signs Cooperation Arrangement with EU Copernicus programme

The African Union (AU) Commission signed a Cooperation Arrangement with the European Commission (EC) in Brussels on 12 June 2018 to facilitate AU’s access to Earth observation data from the Sentinel satellites of the Copernicus Programme.

Under the agreement, the AU Commission, African public users and African disaster management agencies will be able to access the data gathered by the Copernicus programme using high bandwidth terrestrial network connections from data hub to data hub so as to foster the exchange of Earth observation data between Europe and Africa. This data can be used to develop tools to monitor the environment, crops, water bodies and coastal ecosystems, as well as for disaster management.

As part of the deal, signed at the premises of the European Commission Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (DC-GROWTH), African scientists and institutions will also receive technical support from European research and space agencies on the processing of the spatial data.

The recent deal builds on past cooperation between Europe and Africa in the fields of space technologies and Earth observation. “The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and Africa“, an initiative of the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA), launched in 2007 and was developed to provide reliable and timely services related to environmental and security issues. The “GMES and Africa“ focuses on developing African Earth observation capacities in several key areas, including natural disasters, food security and rural development, long-term management of natural resources, water resource management,  and impacts of climate variability and change.

The AU’s ratification of the Cooperation Arrangement highlights the growing importance placed upon space-based information for sustainable development. as access to geospatial information can help improve agriculture, monitor droughts, guard against climate change, enhance disaster planning and disaster management.

Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria have already taken advantage of the declining costs of space technologies and launched their own space agencies and in May Kenya partnered with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) to launch Kenya’s first satellite, 1st Kenyan University Nano Satellite-Precursor Flight (1KUNS-PF), through the KiboCUBE programme.

The KiboCUBE programme is a collaboration between The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and JAXA. The programme aims to provide educational or research institutions from developing countries with the opportunities to deploy cube satellites (CubeSats), from the International Space Station (ISS) Kibo. By offering developing nations the opportunity to deploy CubeSats into space, UNOOSA and JAXA aim to lower the cost of engaging in space activities and to increase national capacity in spacecraft engineering, design and construction. This in turn allows more countries to participate in space science and to expand the use of space-based technology for disaster monitoring and prevention.