Developing the Potential of Private Companies in South Africa’s Earth Observation Industry through Collaboration with EuroGEO & International Initiatives

South Africa boasts a diverse and globally competitive Earth Observation (EO) industry, with applications ranging from agriculture, mining, forestry, fisheries, environment, fire detection, human settlement, disaster management to land management. Private sector organizations, driven by the bottom line, are keen to invest in initiatives that promise new solutions and revenue streams within their operating sectors. This involvement spans satellite and component manufacturing, systems integration, data processing and image rectification; data storage; developing globally innovative applications & technologies; and providing internationally recognised data analytic capabilities.

While there are several South African universities that provide education and training to equip students with the skills in all sectors of the EO industry, there are others that lack the necessary resources. Capacitating these universities is crucial for industry growth in the country. Initiatives like the National Space Conference bring together representatives from the public and private sectors, parastatals, and academia to inform the industry of advancements.

Initiatives such as the National Space Conference with representatives from the public and private sectors, parastatals (eg CSIR, ARC) and academia are vital to inform the industry of advancements in the development of the EO industry in South Africa. Initiatives such as ZA Space exist in South Africa and could enable effective engagement with the private sector but needs to be fully representative of private industry in the different EO sectors.

Expanding Horizons: Opportunities for Private Sector Involvement with EuroGEO

South African companies predominantly generate revenue through international partnerships with organizations in the various sectors of the EO industry. Integrating EO solutions in end-to-end sectors and sharing knowledge with African and European markets presents significant opportunities for the private sector in South Africa. Partnerships with organizations in the international community is required to ensure the development of the South African industries, in areas such as compliance with international standards.

Collaboration is key in areas like the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, space system development, and academic-industry qualifications. Focusing on priority needs, such as infrastructure and climate change, is crucial for market development in emerging regions like Africa. South African companies need to have a presence in the European and international communities for them to benefit from partnerships, such as EuroGEO. Experience in aligning public and private sectors and bilateral agreements for knowledge sharing are essential for the long-term development of South Africa’s EO industry. A conduit organization is recommended to facilitate engagement between EuroGEO, the international community and the private sector in South Africa.

Tapping into Global Partnerships & Funding Opportunities

Collaboration in South Africa’s EO industry holds tremendous potential for growth and innovation. By focusing on key areas like training and knowledge transfers in AI and machine learning, and developing space systems, the industry can take a significant leap forward. Establishing collaboration networks to develop markets in emerging regions like Africa, is paramount. This approach addresses critical needs such as infrastructure, climate change, food security, and smart city development. Moreover, tailoring projects to meet specific applications in both South African and African markets by building on the successful pilots conducted in e-Shape, will further propel the industry’s progress.

Experience in aligning public and private sectors in the European Union is invaluable for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the EO industry in South Africa. Bilateral initiatives and agreements for sharing expertise in priority areas and implementing targeted interventions are essential components of this strategy. Identifying a conduit organization to facilitate engagement between EuroGEO and South Africa’s private sector entities will streamline collaborative efforts. Additionally, tapping into funding opportunities like the Global Monitoring of Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, along with its regional office in Africa (GMES-Africa), is crucial. With the upcoming phase of GMES set to allocate significantly more funding to private sector organizations, this avenue presents a pivotal opportunity for industry advancement. GMES’s emphasis on transferring EO data into the mobile environment underscores its importance in shaping the industry’s future.

Presented at the GeoWeek Summit (2023) in the ” From e-shape to EuroGEO and interlinkages with AfriGEO” session.

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