How does one go about cultivating Africa’s space ecosystem?

The space sector can seem inaccessible if you do not have experience participating in it. How do you go about making connections with other individuals with similar interests? This can be a particularly difficult question to answer if you live in an area that is not known to be a hub of space activity. We spoke to Kwaku Sumah, a space-sector consultant from Ghana who recently started Spacehubs Africa, a website to connect Africans with space interests to each other. He shares how he personally became interested in space and explains Spacehubs Africa’s mission. 

What is the mission of Spacehubs Africa?

Simply said, the mission of Spacehubs Africa is to connect members of the African space ecosystem together. We provide a platform for people to engage with the industry, learn about space more generally, expand their networks, and connect with others to form teams and communities. We want to stimulate connections in African space for the betterment of Africa as a whole.

Why did you decide to create Spacehubs Africa?

Spacehubs Africa is the culmination of a long series of small events. I have always had the desire to create something of value for Africans, and I want to help create opportunities for others.

The fact that this desire was manifested in the space industry was a bit of a surprise. While I have always wanted to work with technology, my start in the space industry itself was somewhat accidental. A now ex-colleague of mine, Tim Searle, helped me get an interview at a specialized space consultancy after we had just met. It is through the past four years working at SpaceTec Partners in Munich that I have been able to get a real sense of the potential that space technologies have for sustained socioeconomic growth, innovation, and economic development. 

As I gathered these experiences, I was also in the middle of completing my master’s degree at the Technical University of Munich. As part of my studies, I was required to write a thesis on a topic of my own choosing. Using my newly found knowledge in the space industry, I decided to apply it to my home country of Ghana. My thesis investigated the comparative advantage between African nations in the space industry. It provided recommendations and outlined a path forward for Ghana to leverage space technologies effectively.

This thesis led me to attending an African space workshop hosted by SGAC in Mauritius in 2018. The workshop was my first real interaction with the African space community. I sensed a real hunger and desire to learn and grow from everyone I met. That experience really inspired me (it didn’t hurt that I was in a country as beautiful as Mauritius). So, I decided to try and figure out what I could do to contribute.

This was the genesis of Spacehubs Africa. A continent as large and disparate as Africa can suffer from a poor flow of information due to fractured groups. The idea behind Spacehubs Africa was to bypass those issues by connecting local space communities across Africa together. I wanted to be able to provide information and access to communities and individuals who were previously more isolated. While that mission in itself is already valuable, I wanted to take it a step further by not only providing access to a larger community but also by offering educational resources and materials, as well as entrepreneurial support to members.

What advice do you have for Africans who want to involve themselves in the space sector?

If you are lacking knowledge, there are lots of freely available instructional materials online that you can access from home. If you are lacking experience, try and create something on your own. Build your knowledge, learn to code and manipulate satellite data, research the industry, and write articles and papers. Find people around you who are also interested in space and work on a project together. Involve yourself in any events, meetups, or discussions (offline or online) and soak up everything you can.

The community is open, friendly, and excited to see you join. No one is too old or too young. We are all united by our love of space! Start now. Don’t wait till tomorrow.