Kenya recently hosted eight other African countries in a series of meetings to explore opportunities to lead in global science while positioning the East African country as a regional hub for Basic Space Science; all nine countries have agreed to cooperate in radio astronomy research.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) was successfully ended as the countries formalized their ambition via a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The partnering countries include South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia, Madagascar, Ghana and host Kenya.

The meeting explores the SKA Africa Readiness Strategy, joint implementation plan and cost estimates for partner states in hosting the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) and SKA dishes.

When fully constructed, the SKA, a huge telescope with a total collecting area of one square kilometer, is expected to be able to survey the entire skies more than ten thousand times faster than ever achieved by any existing equipment using bandwidths and data transfer rates faster than the current global internet traffic. The huge telescope, which will be the world’s largest and most sensitive, will help further research into the dynamics of space and possibly help detect life elsewhere in the universe.

Kenyan Education, Science and Technology Principal Secretary, Prof Jacob Kaimenyi, noted that the SKA will drive in a number of appealing benefits even though it required huge capital investments. Among the benefits mentioned included new job opportunities and increased business opportunities for local industries during and after the construction.

The move was also in line with facilitating the government’s Science Technology and Innovation (ST&I) policy framework which is a key theme of the country’s Vision 2030. The policy seeks to devote resources to scientific research, improve the technical capabilities of the workforce and raise the quality of teaching science and technology in learning institutions.

Other moves made by the government to boost the ST&I implementation include the ST&I Act of 2013 which mandates an allocation of about 2% of national GDP for research and development (R&D).

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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