Skip to main content

Kenya Space Agency (KSA), in collaboration with the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS), has embarked on an initiative that seeks to review, map and develop a roadmap of initiatives for the country’s growing space innovation ecosystem. The initiative, which is supported by the UK International Development (UKAID) through its Research and Innovation Systems in Africa (RISA) Fund, comes on the heels of the recent unveiling of the Kenya Space Agency Strategic Plan 2023-2027.  

Kenya is actively investing in research and development, infrastructure, data and space-based products and services to encourage space entrepreneurship, to encourage innovation, and foster the emergence of space start-ups. This is support is poised to allow the space economy to grow rapidly. The project will help identify critical sector players, explore risks and challenges to the space sector’s sustainability, and identify routes to further growth and expansion. 

In 2023, the global space economy reached $543 million, of which the commercial market accounted for $427.6 billion. Africa is mirroring this growth potential but on a far smaller scale. Total sector spend last year was just under $20 billion, which is about 0.5% of the global market. However, despite many of the continent’s space ecosystems remaining in a nascent stage, year-on-year growth in the sector signifies the growing importance that space will play in Africa’s continued development.  

Brigadier Kipkosgey, CEO at KSA, is confident in Kenya’s ability to drive socio-economic development through the effective utilisation of space capabilities, which is a direct mandate for the Agency. He says, “To grow the sector it is important to have sight of Kenya’s innovative capabilities and to understand where there may be gaps in our space economy that could potentially challenge future growth. We anticipate that the roadmap exercise will provide a clear route to helping us, in part, achieve our goals which are outlined in the Strategic Plan.” 

The KSA Strategic Plan focuses on six key areas including the coordination and regulation of space activities; national space capacity development; the utilisation of space services and technologies; space research, innovation and development; resource mobilisation; and strengthening institutional capacity. 

Davis Cook, Chairman at RIIS, an African innovation-focused advisory firm with deep roots in space innovation ecosystem development (among others), says that Kenya’s space economy is ripe for progression towards a more developed stage. He says, “The private sector around the world is increasingly playing a pivotal role in shaping space economies and is widely regarded as a critical enabler of economic growth. Kenya is already seeing some interesting private sector activity among space-tech start-ups.  This is compelling evidence of the country’s potential to ramp up its innovation in both the upstream and downstream space sectors.” 

Key factors to continuing sector impetus, says Cook, is to ensure linkages within the space economy, and to develop fertile conditions for further growth. This includes driving investment awareness of the space innovation that is occurring in the country; ensuring that there is a diversity of funding options for market entrants, and access to risk-adjusted capital to support the growth of the sector, as well as a need for robust skills transfer models. 

Brigadier Kipkosgey says that Kenya is aware of the immense potential of space technologies and tools in advancing sustainable development nationally, as well as achieving Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Brigadier Kipkosgey adds, “The roadmapping exercise is well-aligned to our objectives and underscores our commitment to supporting and expanding Kenya’s space sector. Furthermore, there exists a strong relationship between KSA and RIIS, having previously worked on initiatives such as the Africa Earth Observation Challenge, a project that identifies and accelerates space-tech start-ups. We are thus pleased to jointly embark on the important space innovation ecosystem roadmap work that will add value to Kenya’s space sector.”