Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network launches mobility scheme for planetary researchers
December 20, 2020

Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network launches mobility scheme for planetary researchers

The Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network has been awarded a grant of 1.4 million Euros by the European Commission through the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) under the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme. 

The project is led by Dr. Fulvio Franchi, a geologist and planetary scientist at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), who is also the lead for Europlanet 2024 RI’s Transnational Access facility at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.

The Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network aims to create a continent-wide mobility scheme for students, academic and support staff with an interest in planetary and space science disciplines.

A team of experts from BIUST will lead a consortium consisting of Higher Education Institutes from Ethiopia (Addis Ababa University), Nigeria (University of Nigeria Nsukka), South Africa (University of the Witwatersrand), Zambia (Copperbelt University), and a technical partner from Italy (University of Bologna).

The consortium includes relevant planetary and space science stakeholders in the partnering countries such as the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI), the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) Zambia, and the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Nigeria. 

The over-arching objective of the Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network is to support the education of young scientists and prepare them for leading roles in the science and technology market that is expected to develop across Africa over the next decade — from large projects such as the Square Kilometer Array, to positions in universities as lecturers or technical staff . 

The project lead, Dr. Franchi explains: “This mobility project wishes to develop the next generation of African scientists, leaders, and entrepreneurs by improving their access to high quality STEM education, with particular emphasis on planetary and space science”. 

The Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network consortium will act as an incubator for new collaborations among African institutions. It will also create, for the first time in Africa, an integrated higher education programme for Planetary and Space Sciences at Master of Science (MSc) and Doctoral (PhD) level. 

The importance of planetary and space science in the development of the continent has been also recognised by the African Union (AU), which has recently adopted the “African Space Policy and Strategy”. This marked the inaugural concrete step to realise an African Space Programme, urging Member States, Regional Economic Communities and Partners to raise awareness on the central role of space science and technology for Africa’s socio-economic development. 

Many African countries have identified planetary and space science as a stepping stone for the modernisation of their economy and for practical uses, monitoring of land-use cover change, climate change, drought, hydrology, and natural disasters. 

The introduction of planetary and space science in the African tertiary education system will boost modernisation of the programmes, introduction new scientific problems and cutting-edge technologies designed for space and planetary exploration within African Higher Education Institutes and Industries. Planetary and Space Science will excite the imagination of the public and stimulate the interest of the youth in STEM locally, regionally at a global level.