Taarifa Rwanda

Smart Africa, Rwanda Sign Deal With Tokyo University For Satellite Technology

Smart Africa Initiative and Rwanda have signed an agreement with Japanese Tokyo University for cooperation and training of space engineers across the continent.

The deal was signed on Wednesday afternoon in Rwanda’s capital Kigali during the Transform Africa summit that began on Monday, ending on Friday.

The Executive Director of Smart Africa Initiative, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, said that Smart Africa has allocated funds for scholarships for young Africans interested in space engineering and with be taken to Tokyo University for training sooner than later.

Dr. Shinichi Nakasuka, a professor heading the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at University of Tokyo told Taarifa that the university will begin with about six engineers from Rwanda right away.

Dr. Nakasuka, who is the inventor of the latest smaller satellites with nine of them already orbiting in space, said that Tokyo University has chosen Rwanda to begin advanced explorations and experiences.

“We have been developing a smaller satellite and we are happy that Rwanda has accepted to partner with us in this journey,” he said and added that, “we are also taking advantage that Rwanda is the Headquarter for Smart Africa, but also where the government of Rwanda has expressed high intentions for cooperation in space technology.”

Dr. Ryosuke Shibasaki, also a professor at Tokyo University, said that the University is interested in exploring a different area os using space data analytics and the kind of infrastructure that can be built in Africa to capture the data generated by this new breed of satellites.

“And we are looking at a business model, which will see us finding countries that are interested in using the data collected all around the world,” he said. “We are happy that Rwanda has come on board.”

According to Dr. Toure, who is also a space engineer, this is the time for Africa to “demystify” the idea that African cant be in the space, to the moon and so on. “We need to be in space as well,” he said. “We will train people to do this, and Smart Africa has a scholarship program and i think it will be useful.”

Data centers

Dr. Nakasuka said the miniature satellites, valued at around Us$200,000 each, have the capacity to capture different data such as mobile data, weather conditions, soil conditions, and topographic information in general; in real time.

However, some advanced information may not be dropped in Africa because there are no base stations built to collect such information. However, in this agreement, there will be efforts to develop base stations with capabilities of collecting satellite data for use without it being dropped in Japan or any other station out of Africa.

At the moment, according to Director General of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, Patrick Nyirishema, “we will begin with a modular manner, collecting basic data from here in Rwanda, and the scale up gradually until we develop advanced data centers. However, some sensitive information will be captured and stored in Rwanda and may not be shared with the public.”

Nyirishema said that currently with cloud space, data can be collected and stored until larger and advanced base stations with big data centers are developed.

For Dr. Toure, “This is massive, this is good, and is inline with our vision of Africa’s transformation.”

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