Connect with us

Featured

Update: Family issues reward after Africa’s youngest billionaire goes missing

Published

on

Tanzanian entrepreneur Mohammed Dewji was abducted on Thursday morning on his way to a gym session at a luxury hotel in Oyster Bay, Dar es Salaam. 

According to reports emerging, masked gunmen in two cars ambushed the prominent businessman as he walked into the exclusive Colosseum Hotel and Fitness Club, where he is a member.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the incident and two of the abductors are believed to be foreign nationals, says a BBC report.

A Reuters report quotes Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda as saying the businessman was kidnapped by two men as he entered the hotel.

“They fired a gun and then they opened the gate,” Makonda said, adding that security personnel had started a search for Dewji.

Featured as a FORBES AFRICA cover in July 2013 and as FORBES AFRICA’s Person of The Year in 2016, the 43-year-old single-handedly turned his father’s trading business into Tanzania’s largest import-export group.

“Slowly, slowly, I am planning to take on the whole continent. I am very bullish,” he told FORBES AFRICA.

READ MORE: The $1.3 billion TSAR of Dar

Dewji is the CEO of MeTL active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in eastern, southern and central Africa. He is also the main sponsor of football club Simba.

In September, he met with FORBES AFRICA editor Methil Renuka to talk about plans to expand his business into the rest of the continent.

“It was a brief meeting and he had breathlessly related his business plans for the next two years; the new industries in his pipeline, and his desire to develop Tanzania with every new technology and product on the market. He emphasized the value he places on Africa’s human capital, the role of the youth to steer the continent’s bright future, as he has done,” says Renuka.

News about the kidnapping has sent shockwaves on social media and across Africa.

According to FORBES’ Africa Billionaires list released earlier this year, Dewji is worth $1.5 billion.

Update: Family issues reward after Africa’s youngest billionaire goes missing
The family of billionaire Mohammed Dewji has issued a reward for anyone with information on his whereabouts.
Dewji’s family has offered 1 billion Tanzanian Shillings ($436,674) to anyone who can help them find the president of the MeTL Group.
The Tanzanian entrepreneur was abducted last month on his way to a gym session at a luxury hotel in Oyster Bay in Dar es Salaam.
Azim Dewji, a family spokesperson, said in a statement: “We would also like to show our sincere gratitude to everyone for their tremendous outpouring of love and support that we have received in the wake of such adversity. We urge you to continue keeping MO in your prayers as our nation continues the search for him.”
Dewji was featured on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in July 2013 and was named FORBES AFRICA’s Person of The Year in 2016. The 43-year-old single-handedly turned his father’s trading business into Tanzania’s largest import-export group.
Dewji’s personal networth is $1.5 billion, according to the Africa billionaires list released by FORBES earlier this year. He is also Africa’s youngest billionaire.

Read the Family’s Public notice here:Public-Notice-Dewji-Spokesperson-15-October-2018

Cover Story

2018 African Of The Year – President of Rwanda Paul Kagame

Published

on

By

In an exclusive interview, Paul Kagame, Rwandan President and Chair of the African Union, speaks to Methil Renuka about intra-Africa trade, how governments can drive entrepreneurial growth and why he will always find time to play sports.


The appointment is at 11AM on a November morning in Kigali, and past the tight security at the presidential offices located on KG7 Avenue, the views are of manicured lawns and a verdant paradise with hulking trees, chirping birds and cobbled pathways fringed by hibiscus and frangipani flowers. Kigali is a clean city with rolling hills and green valleys, but the foliage within Village Urugwiro, where we are meeting President Paul Kagame, is a botanist’s dream. A few minutes in the airy waiting lounge – accentuated by cream, olive green colors and a touch of wood – and the president walks in, tall and in an immaculate blue suit. He greets us warmly and is relaxed, joking about how much he dislikes posing for photographs. Yet, he obliges, against the greenery.

Kagame, who is also head of the African Union (AU), has been adjudged the ‘2018 African of the Year’ at the eighth All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA).

Who is he dedicating it to, we ask? “The people of Rwanda,” he says. He shares more with FORBES AFRICA:   

Q. You are completing a year as chair of the African Union. Africa is such a diverse heterogeneous continent, with each country having its own interests. How challenging is your job in bringing a balance?

A. It’s absolutely challenging, and as you rightly said, you have to deal with diverse interests, cultures and backgrounds. Yet, Africa needs to be together in handling continental matters because there are more things that similarly affect Africans than are different. There are also different mentalities. You find some people are used to doing things a certain way, even if they are shown – or they see for themselves – that doing things differently might bring better results, they still stick to the old ways.

Talking about my task… The first thing is to pay attention to people’s concerns, to people’s ways of looking at things and take all that into account, as you also create space for people to discuss openly and show how we are all together in a different time than we have been used to… The moment you create that space for discussion, which we have done, the moment you increase consultation and also allow people to participate in challenging the points of views out there that tend to shape directions, we all have to follow, especially when you are able to identify things with certain success stories that exist. For example, in a country not making good progress or that is not ready to change, you can still point to their own situation and say ‘no, but you actually made good progress in this area because these were the contributing factors’. This can always be explained even in the wider context of where we want to go as a continent by coming together. So unity and regional integration have been emphasized.

We have been able to show that entrepreneurship, business and intra-Africa trade that have been lacking are actually more important than focusing solely on the market outside of the continent… That conversation helps people understand more, it helps people come together and we keep reminding them your neighbor is more important than someone far away from you. We are all neighbors one way or the other. My country has four neighbors and then one of the other countries we are neighbors with has nine neighbors. So it cuts across. We find we are actually very closely-linked and therefore, as we look at ourselves as individual countries, we need to recognize that if it’s sub-regional blocs or the continent, we become bigger, we are actually better off for it if we work together. Businesses and economies grow multiple times when we work together.

What I discovered from the beginning was there is no magic here other than just working with what there is and being realistic about it and allowing that conversation, and challenging one another, and being real in pointing out real things that matter, and we take it from there. And I think it has been good progress. We have put a lot of effort into it and every African country, every African leader, has played their part. So we just keep encouraging and keep going. Later, we can show everyone the benefit coming out of this very short period’s effort of working together.

Q. One of the aspirations of Agenda 2063 of the AU is a united Africa. How important is it for the rest of the world to see Africa as a single powerhouse?

A. We need it. We need that backdrop from which we should see things and remind ourselves how this continent is actually great, a continent projected to be 2.5 billion by 2050. That’s huge, bigger than any other continent. Africa is endowed with all kinds of resources, and natural resources, so how do you not think it’s important? Therefore, we have to create a clear context in which we operate and understand all aspects of this value of being in a position where we have huge assets in terms of people and natural resources and everything that anyone would wish for. So what remains is, how do we harness this? How do we leverage this? So we had to create long-term, medium-term pathways and say we should develop human capital and infrastructure. This huge workforce that keeps coming… 29 million supposed to be [pouring] into the labor market every year [until] 2030; you’ve got to think about this and ask what it means. It’s a huge asset if we make correct investments. It’s also a huge risk if you just keep [pouring] 29 million people in the labor market when they have nothing to do. The framework of 2063 provides sufficient room for us to think, reflect and therefore make the right investments for us to fulfill continental aspirations.

Q. The concept of a single African market. How far are we from realizing that?

A. I was pleasantly surprised when we had the summit here for the African Continental Free Trade Area. Initially, scepticism was expressed by some people, saying ‘but this can’t work, it can’t happen, Africa is divided, it never gets things right together’. So when the leaders came to Kigali for this extraordinary summit, we expected only a few countries to sign up, but we got 44 countries signing up on the first day. But we have also seen how it has been increasing, with countries ratifying the free trade area and free movement of people, goods and services. Therefore, that is a signal Africans understood the importance of this, and it is important indeed if we want to transform our economies and allow opportunities for prosperity to our people… I think [the single African market] is making very good progress even with that background of scepticism. We have already left that behind us and are moving forward.

Q. You are a leader who looks to the future not forgetting a painful past. How hard were the last two decades for you?

A. Very hard (laughs), which is an understatement, but that is the spirit, about learning lessons of the difficulties you have gone through but not allowing that to hold you back, to make you a hostage of that tragic experience, but rather learn lessons as quickly as you can and focus on where we are going in the future and doing our best to even keep making references to that past if you will. And therefore helping you to decide which choices to make at any given time in the future. So, 20 years has been a journey of difficulties but I think of the good stories too, and that is what encourages all of us.

We have had tragedies, and at the same time, the efforts of bringing people together through reconciliation, through deciding which direction we take for our future… the people have responded with energy, with positivity, and that has not come to nothing, it has actually borne fruit. We’ve seen progress.

Even the people, when you look at their faces and you look at how they go about things, it as if nothing ever happened here, yet history is loaded with terrible experiences. And apart from those tragic experiences, we have had other external pressures – people who are quick to forget. Sometimes, the demands [are] even from the outside about how we should deal with things, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, as if our lives are to be decided from the outside and as if we have nothing to do with determining our own course in the future.

But we have calmly had dialogue with such people behind those pressures. We have also focused and really concentrated on what we understand, even the hard choices we have to make, but the good thing is, every three or five years down the road, we were able to measure and say, ‘well, what have we gained from the different choices and efforts we made’. Could we have done things differently or even better? Even putting into account all these unnecessary external lessons, and pressures, we still listen. We don’t fall short on that. We always listen, but at the same time, we fully understand we are the ones for ourselves.

Q. Speaking about the future, Rwanda has been a pioneer in private sector-led economic transformation. What to you are the new industries and wealth creators of the future? 

A. From the outset, we understood we have to deal with people. How do you invest in them, how do you prepare them for their role? As a government, we have to improve their lives but also allow this broad national transformation to take place. Then it comes to skills. You give them more opportunities to access things that cut across what they have to do, whether it is the agriculture sector and the agri-businesses around that and the whole value chain, and remembering that agriculture, for example, is very important.

The other part is we have seen, in terms of technology, infrastructure, digitalization, the internet; we have to prepare people to use that, as they have a multiplying effect in many ways, even if it is in public service, and delivery of that in the population that plays that part… Different sectors are impacted by this, therefore, provide the infrastructure to do that, and then the innovation that will come along with it… So these are things we think about – how to create wealth for our own people, how to allow people to thrive…

But then, around that are rules of the game. How do you create an environment to allow disruption and innovation? For example, if you look at how we have been preparing the ground and allowing these activities to take place, in terms of even globally in the ease of doing business – the World Bank report where Rwanda is 29th in the world and second in Africa. All these are to answer that question: how do we create this wealth? It’s the environment, it is specific things to invest in, it’s how we leverage the resources we have.  

Q. How do you promote entrepreneurial capitalism, how are you looking at youth-led startups?

A. The question you raise is important. For example, we have an initiative called YouthConnekt, where we try to encourage young people to be innovative. We give them cash prizes, but this is to excite them and make them think innovatively. It also creates healthy competition among young people, but above all, it stimulates them to think [about] what they need to do that fits in with the times we are in. We also have formed business development funds that cut across districts and the country that help people understand what entrepreneurship holds for them and that they can participate and therefore, we give them seed money, if they specifically come up with these ideas but some of the ideas may come through this support by educating them. We have created an Innovation Fund, and help thousands of our young people by combining both innovation and entrepreneurship, we hope to keep exciting our young people to be able to do a number of things. We have national entrepreneurship programs.

Every five years, we see what this has done, what impact it has had, and also make improvements. So it keeps going. It has had a huge impact. We see it has been working and draw lessons from these experiences of young people feeding back to us as government institutions and then we respond as much as we can. Of course, governments have limitations. It doesn’t have everything it requires or wishes to deploy, to reach the goals we want. We’ve been trying to be thoughtful in involving the young people. We have also provided them educational programs that include vocational training and technical programs that help them to not just study in schools and sometimes come up with no skills, but to also acquire knowledge. The skills that are required for employment are lacking so we have also tried to cover that gap and are making good progress.

Q. What really drives entrepreneurship? How do we make sure young people stay on the continent?

A. It is a combination of many things. Some of it may even be political, meaning, the political environment must be that of reassurance to the citizens in general, but to the young people as well, and reassurance in a sense that it not something you just deliver to them, but something you deliver by allowing them to participate or [by conveying that] they have a place in their own country, and politically, they can participate, which again relates to the socioeconomic part of it.

Therefore, if politically, they understand they are participants and not just observers – they need to even participate in addressing some of the problems – then the next demand is ‘what about these bread-and-butter issues, how do I take care of myself, take care of my family; every effort is being done by the government to allow us young people to really play our part; and it means I start with my own environment, in my country, but how about if we connect across borders’?

So to a great extent, it speaks to politics. How do African countries and leaders allow this cross-border economic activity that interests these young people and holds them here so they don’t reach a point where they become desperate in which [case] they go to other places? Sometimes, they reach these [other places] and actually find the situation is even worse, so we have to find a way of talking directly to the young people, but above all, create new things on the ground they can experience and participate in.

It’s not one side that is going to deliver it and put on the table, it’s everybody. It has to be everyone, leaders of countries, and leaders of different kinds who have to play a bigger role.

Q. How do you think capitalists, billionaires and African business can help this process and work collaboratively with the government?

A. We want the private sector to be in the lead of our countries’ or continental transformation; that is for sure, but again, collaboration is important and this is the big burden that lies with governments and we must address how we allow not only the private sector to thrive, to freely do what it is meant to do, but how do we work with them. For example, many times that there have been discussions about private-public partnerships, some people are uncomfortable about them. You don’t understand why. There is no question that if the government played its part in allowing the private sector to thrive and the private sector also understands that if they do their part with the government, that’s very important in the thriving of the citizens of the country, which again constitute the market in which we operate.

So if the people of Rwanda are thriving, the citizens are well, then the business person should be happy because this is the market in which they play. But you can’t be rich and continue sustainably as a businessman in a very impoverished market. It’s just common sense. So if the market, the people are thriving, it feeds back to the private sector but then the private sector should respond in the same way… I mean if you’re a government person, a political leader, you also want to see a country that is registering economic growth, registering development. I think the private sector-mind is going to respond positively to these good signals originating from the political environment, from the leadership. It’s in their interest as well. So we really should be happy with the private-public partnership. There is no question about it, it’s a win-win sort of relationship.

Q. A leader, military leader and father to four children. What is the role you cherish most and how do you find the time to do justice to each?

A. I consider myself lucky, in this sense, I don’t even have to make a lot of effort in being myself; that is the starting point. I try to be myself, I try to be a family person, a person that relates with relatives, friends, and not only here, but outside the country. So I am first and foremost comfortable with that. The rest that comes along with that is the responsibility I now hold. I need no reminder that many people look up to me to say ‘what is he thinking [about] us, what are we going to be able to achieve with his leadership’. It doesn’t matter how the leadership role I play came about, whether it was accidental or planned, but I am there, so I have to play this role effectively.

It’s really trying to be comfortable with myself, comfortable as a family person, as a person who has friends, and who relates to even those who are not my friends directly (laughs). I have the responsibility to them and I must do as much as I can fairly without fear or favor. The balance has been happening without much effort.

Q.  How do you unwind? Do you get the time to play sport?

A. I do a lot of sport. I have to create time, there is no doubt. In fact, at times, I have to do things at strange hours, sometimes when others are sleeping… I even do my exercises very late in the night when I should be resting, but again, I always find ways of compensating for what I have missed because I also have to find time to rest, to sleep, above all.

I never lack sleep. Whenever I have a few hours to put my head on the pillow, without much effort, I go to sleep.

I do follow sport. I have been a good fan of Arsenal football club for about three decades now. Whenever they are playing, whatever game, whenever I have the time, I always want to watch.

I do follow other sports as well. I watch tennis, basketball – I follow the National Basketball Association (NBA).

I used to play basketball for fun, but am not a professional, and I never came anywhere near that. But I play tennis, I work out and enjoy watching games if I am not able to play.

Q. Your favorite sportsmen…?

A. They are many. For basketball, for many years, my favorite team for NBA has been the Golden State Warriors. I enjoy watching Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, but of course I also enjoy watching LeBron James, and then there are young upcoming players I have now started following.

‘2018 African of the Year’

‘African of the Year’ is one of the categories at the eighth All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA).

The annual event (held this year on November 29) honors business excellence and leaders who have had a considerable impact on their industry and community. The nominees for the ‘African of the Year’ category, including several African statesmen, were judged based on the following criteria: their international profile, positive impact, their ability to build equality, develop society, champion inclusiveness, deal with corruption, transform society, enforce governance, alleviate poverty, lead economic development and be an African leader who is a role model. 

Paul Kagame: The Rwandan president and head of the African Union (AU) has spent this year improving the economic conditions of his country, and talking continental trade. He made headlines for the partnership with Alibaba, and for improving the ease of doing business in Rwanda as attested by the World Bank. Rwanda has inked a three-year deal as the tourism partner of English football club Arsenal. As a tribute to growing regional cooperation, three months after assuming the chairmanship of the AU, Kagame hosted, in Kigali, over 50 African heads of state, for the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which envisions a single market expected to generate a combined GDP of more than $3.4 trillion and benefiting 1.2 billion people. So far, 49 countries have come on board.

-Renuka Methil

Continue Reading

Featured

The Scourge of Child Slavery Persists Despite Laws

mm

Published

on

Child labor thrives in West Africa despite stringent policies against it.


It’s the crack of dawn in Obuasi, Ghana, and Kwame Twumasi’s work has just begun on the farm owned by his uncle in the forest. Like every day, what lies ahead is hard manual labor.

He begins by using a chainsaw to clear a wooded area. This done, Twumasi climbs a cocoa tree and with a large machete, expertly cuts down cocoa bean pods. Five young boys wait patiently below ready to stuff the pods into large sacks that sometimes weigh as much as 90kg.

They slowly haul the sacks – at least three times their individual weight – on to their bare backs and lug them through the forest to the depot.


“Sometimes,the bags are so heavy that we struggle to drag them and it takes two people to move them to the depot.

One day, the bag was so heavy that it broke and we were beaten badly,” says Twumasi.

Twumasi is 13 years old and has been working as a slave since the age of nine, when his mother passed away and he was sent to live with his uncle in the Ashanti Region. His story mirrors that of countless, hapless children being used as cheap labor by farmers all over West Africa to keep the costs of labor and production down.

“We barely make enough to survive. I am making about GHS200 ($41) a month as a cocoa farmer and there is a lot of competition out there as these international brands have no loyalty to us. We have to do what we can to keep costs low, and  children help make that possible,” says Kofi (real name withheld), Twumasi’s uncle.

Chocolate is big business. Its raw material is the cocoa bean, which predominantly grows in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia and Latin America. Ghana and the Ivory Coast supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa sold to a majority of chocolate companies.

The widespread use of child labor in West Africa has come under intense scrutiny owing primarily to the work of a handful of organizations and journalists.

“Most of the farms in West Africa supply cocoa to international giants… and they continue to squeeze impoverished farmers out of good margins and as a result they continue this practice of child slavery because that is the only way they can make ends meet,” says Mike Oppong, an agricultural economist in Ghana.

Child labor entails work that is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful to children and deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2017 Multiple Cluster Survey (MICS),about 50.8% of Nigerian children, aged between five and 17, are involved in child labor.

“The north-central region in Nigeria has the highest burden of child labor of 56.8 percent. These numbers are extremely alarming as this region also accounts for the highest number of children working in hazardous conditions in the country,” says Maureen Zubie-Okolo, UNICEF’s monitoring and evaluation specialist.

In northern Nigeria, many families send children from rural to urban areas to live with Islamic teachers, known as mallams, and receive a Koranic education. These children, known as almajiri, may receive lessons, but teachers often force them to beg on the streets and surrender the money they collect, making them highly vulnerable to recruitment by Boko Haram, according to a report by the United States Department of Labor (DOL).

According to the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), Africa has the largest number of child laborers; 72.1 million African children are estimated to be in child labor and 31.5 million doing hazardous work.

Places like Benin City, in Nigeria, are a major human trafficking hub in Africa where many girls are trafficked to Europe for forced labor and sex work.

The problem is widespread and millions of children from West African countries experience forced labor, including begging on the streets and domestic work,” says Tosin Ajao, an economist in Abuja.

Landlocked Burkina Faso is wedged between Mali and Niger to the northwest and east, and borders Ghana on the north. Here, artisanal or small-scale mining is widespread, with thousands of people migrating here to join the gold rush.

According to DOL, in 2012, almost half of all children in Burkina Faso younger than 18 were engaged in some type of work with many of them toiling in the agriculture and mining sectors where they are exposed to chemical hazards, hazardous machinery and heavy labor.

The ILO estimates that 30% to 50% of the mine workers in western and north central Africa are younger than 18. Extreme poverty has exacerbated this epidemic.

The problem of child labor in Africa requires urgent attention in order to support governments to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7 to end all forms of child labor by 2025 and forced labor, trafficking and modern slavery by 2030.

To tackle this, governments need to raise awareness and ensure social protection, education of current and at-risk child laborers, as well as strengthen institutional capacity and policies.

Hopefully, they will, soon.

Continue Reading

Featured

Africa Takes to the Stratosphere and Beyond

Published

on

The space race is a battle of big minds and miniature satellites. Much remains to be done but outer space could potentially be a trillion-dollar industry that Africa could also cash in on.


Brittany Bull is only 18 years old but can already add ‘space scientist’ to her resume.

She is part of a team building one of South Africa’s first privately-owned nano satellites to launch into space.

“The space industry is about exploration and exploration only happens when you do something nobody else has done before,” says Bull, her face lighting up like the moon.

The teenager grew up in a small, sleepy town called Strandfontein in the Western Cape province of South Africa where starry nights are more the norm than satellites.

But Bull has ambitions for herself and the planet.

She is currently an intern and ambassador for a space program at XinaBox, an Internet of Things (IoT) and electronics development solution focused on coding.

The nanosatellites Bull is working on will be released by a rocket at an altitude of approximately 250km, and will travel to the International Space Station (ISS).

“That’s extreme low earth orbit. That’s the first time a satellite is going to fly in that orbit and it’s the first time a satellite that small is going to fly,” she says.

Brittany Bull. Picture: Supplied

Five nanosatellites “linked together in a thin film of solarpanels” will fit in a box similar to a CubeSat (a miniaturized satellite for space research).

Once ejected from the rocket, the box will open up and the five satellites will unfold with a motherboard and radio attached to them.Their function will be to collect temperature data.

“The main purpose of that is to figure out burn-up temperature and rate upon re-entry into the atmosphere from that altitude,”says Bull.

“No flight has ever taken place at that altitude before so that is going to be the first.”

It will orbit for 14 days before burning up. The data will be transmitted via radio before that happens.

“It is really awe-inspiring and also motivating because I did not let my background stop me. So what’s to say that every other African child can’t make a valuable contribution and if every other African child is given the opportunity, we would progress so fast…,” she says, smiling.

Bull always dreamed of taking the leap into the space industry but never knew what career path would take her there.

She had wanted to study nursing like many other girls her age in her community but in 2015, when a group of female engineers and astrophysicists came to teach students about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), she started realizing her dream, slowly but surely.

The following year, she joined Space Trek, a space science camp in Cape Town offered by Morehead State University in Kentucky, United States(US).

It was a STEM program aimed at empowering young girls. She then applied to their space science and engineering degree program and was accepted on a part-scholarship basis.

Bull is currently raising funds for her stint at Morehead State University and plans to start next year.

Once she is done with her studies, she hopes to return home to make an impact in South Africa’s emerging space industry.

“My dream is to bring that expertise back to South Africa and help make SANSA [South African National Space Agency] just as great,” she says.

“I feel my biggest contribution would be here.”

Onwards and upwards

South Africa has sent three satellites to space. The first was a miniature satellite launched in the US in 1999, built by post-graduate students at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape.

The second South African satellite was launched into spaceby a Russian Soyuz rocket at Baikonur in 2009. It was called the Sumbandila satellite.

“It is a Venda [South African] name for path-finder,” says Nomfuneko Majaja, the Chief Director: Legal & Compliance, SEZs and Space Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Majaja is the former member of the Ad hoc Committee for the review of the Space Affairs Act No. 84 of 1993.

The review is important to ensure that the SA legislation is abreast of the national and international developments.

Majaja also serves as the vice Chairperson of the South African Council for Space Affairs; which is a regulatory body for all space related matters in the country.

She has experience in national economic policy development and strategy processes and specifically in aerospace, outer space and electro-technical sectors.

Majaja says the space industry is not as big compared to other industries in South Africa, and is trying to change that by interacting with various stakeholders involved in the country’s space economy.

But she says there is growing interest in the Space arena in the country.

In 2013, South Africa launched its third satellite, developed by Masters Students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
in the Western Cape province.

It was South Africa’s first cube satellite known as TshepisoSat (Code name ZA-CUBE1).

“In conjunction with developing small satellites, there’s now a big move to developing CubeSats,” says Majaja.

Nomfuneko Majaja. Picture: Supplied

A cube satellite is a miniaturized satellite made up of multiples of 10cm×10cm×10cm cubic units. Satellites are getting smaller, smaller, and still smaller.

Euroconsult, a global independent consulting and analyst firm specializing in satellite-enabled vertical markets, predicts that about 7,000 small satellites will be launched, at an average of 580 per year by 2022 and growing to an average of 820 per year by 2027.

“You can put a satellite in your hand, that’s how small it is,” adds Majaja.

Bull is also working on a project with XinaBox to create an even smaller satellite called the XSat.

“It could fit into an iPhone 7 Plus. It is that tiny,” she says.

“We have an array of sensors for infra-red sensing, ultraviolet light sensing, carbon emissions…”

It will also have GPS sensors.

South Africa is currently working on launching the next CubeSat in December 2018 on a Russian launcher.

One of the ambitious projects many are looking forward to in the country is the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with a square kilometer (one million square meters) of collecting area.

According to its website, it will deploy thousands of radio telescopes, in three unique configurations, and enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail thousands of times faster than any system currently in existence.

“The South African MeerKAT radio telescope is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array telescope and will be integrated into the mid-frequency component of SKA Phase 1,” says its website.

More than 500 international astronomers and 58 from Africa have submitted proposals to work with MeerKAT once it’s completed.

“The space industry in Africa is really going to change completely, because of things like the Square Kilometre Array and MeerKAT and the fact that there are a lot of space-tech companies in Africa and African governments doing satellites,” says Bull.

“Soon, we might have a space agency on the continent that could rival NASA in terms of research, because we are strategically placed fora lot of research that the people in the US can’t do.

“The space industry is going to move and it is going to change and if we have enough people who are passionate enough about it, then we might just be at the helm of the ship.”

Using space technology to resolve Africa’s problems

Thousands of kilometers away from South Africa, 24-year-old Oniosun Temidayo has made it his life’s mission to make Africa the next frontier of the space industry.

Temidayo grew up in a family of five children in Oyo State in the southwest of Nigeria, but always aspired to go to space. There were no opportunities to study aerospace engineering or astronomy so he studied meteorology instead, but space is his first love, and he has been involved in the industry for the last six years.

“The good thing about investing in the space industry is that it helps you solve major societal problems. Space technologies can go along way in actually helping us solve issues like agriculture or security,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

When he was 18, he established a space club at his university with over 200 members. He was also involved in the university’s center for space research.

In 2017, he was part of the group that created Nigeria’s first nanosatellite in conjunction with the Japanese Birds-1 program, a collaborative effort between the Federal University of Technology, Akure(FUTA), and the National Space Research and Development Agency.

It involved five countries, namely Bangladesh, Japan, Mongolia, Ghana and Nigeria. Temidayo worked on the grand station development.

The project’s aim was to equip the future generation of students to create their own satellites.

Post his studies, Temidayo joined the Space Generation Advisory Council, a global organization aiming to bring the views of young space professionals to the United Nations.

There, he became the African regional coordinator driving the development of space and promoting STEM.

In 2017, they hosted an African region space generation workshop, a gathering of young space professionals in Africa with 15 countries in attendance.

Early 2018, the young entrepreneur founded a company called Space in Africa, a platform that covers the business, technology, discoveries, events and political news around the African space and satellite industry.

His goal was to put out African-related information about the industry that he found lacking.

“In Africa, we believe it’s actually time to get involved in the space industry. But we realized this is not going to happen if there is no adequate information on the industry,” he says.

He was the only African listed under the 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space Awards given away by The Mars Generation (anon-profit with boards of leaders from the space industry) early 2018. The list awards young people driving STEM and space globally.


Oniosun Temidayo. Picture: Supplied

In August, he also made it to the 35 Under 35 in the space industry ranking by the International Institute of Space Commerce (established at the Isle of Man). He was one of two Africans on the list.

Despite the lack of resources Nigeria has in space technology, Temidayo says space technology can help in a much bigger way.

“I remember when the Chibok girls went missing in Nigeria,that’s actually a scenario where space technologies could have been capitalized on. At some point, we were using satellite technologies to track them,” he says.

Temidayo emphasizes on technology.

“The argument shouldn’t be ‘should we invest in space’? Yes,we should invest in space. At the same time, we should have policies that enable us to actually make use of these technologies to solve our problems.”

Africa’s outer space strategy

Despite the many challenges Africa faces, experts say it should not shy away from the space race and many countries on the continent plan to make their name in the sector.

There are currently 13 space agencies listed in Africa and 28 satellites have been launched by African countries (owned by Egypt, Algeria,Angola, Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya).

According to the Business and Market Analysis of the African Space Industry done by Space in Africa, over $3 billion has been spent on space projects in Africa since the launch of NILESAT 101 by Egypt in 1998.

“Over 40% of the satellites launched in Africa were launched over the last two years,” Temidayo says.

“This means that in the past two years, African countries have been investing more in space technologies than they were 10 years back.”

Temidayo expects the trend to continue.

“By the end of this year [2018], four more satellites will be launched by African countries.”

Kenya launched a satellite too in 2018.

Charles Mwangi was involved in the development of Kenya’s first space object christened 1st Kenya University Nano-Satellite (1KUNS-PF),also a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm cube satellite.

“Kenya is a space-fearing nation,” he says. “Meaning, we have a space object out there; we have joined the space race.”

He is currently the assistant country coordinator for Kenya Space Agency and is pursuing a second master’s degree in the field of space development.

He wants to be a force in the Kenyan space industry and says instead of going to space, his dream is to inspire young people here on earth.

“I want to make an impact so that kids can dream about space as a career,” he says.

He hopes Kenya will be able to maximize the full benefits of the space industry.

“If satellites can be designed, assembled and tested in Kenya, if we can do that, then we can say we are making progress.”

According to the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, one of the aspirations is to develop the African Outer Space Strategy with plans to establish an African space agency.

In 2017, a framework was developed by the AU on how to fund the agency, draft its goals, benefits and legalities.

“African countries are investing more in space now more than ever, and the trend is actually going way up. We expect it to remain like that,” Bull from South Africa agrees.

“The perception of space is changing; it’s not something for geeks anymore, it’s not something unheard of. A lot of people are starting to take it seriously and they are also starting to be interested in it,” she says.

“So that means there’s going to be more people going into the space industry and contributing, which means we will make progress faster.”

“Seeing that space has a strategic place in enabling the economy, we believe that the government should do that,” Majaja concurs.

This will help governments in strategic planning with the data they receive from satellites.

She says satellites can assist with weather, ocean and border monitoring and management.

“There is room for us to manufacture our own satellites and be able to distribute data,” she says. However, there are big challenges a head for the continent.

“Most African countries cannot afford to spend on space technologies,” Temidayo says. In addition, he says there aren’t enough educational programs in Africa that support space study.

 “African countries have relied on countries like China to build their space technologies,” he says.

“If we want to grow our space industry, we need to start grooming the people who are going to be building the space agencies.”

Training more people in the space industry and STEM is important.

Temidayo says the African space industry is only $3 billion of the $400 billion globally. And Nigeria and South Africa have been leading in this space.

While other global countries are planning their next trips to Mars and other planets, Africa still has a long way to go.

“Africa cannot think like that. We have a lot of problems to solve so let’s use space technologies to solve our problems. I don’t think Africa should get involved in such missions. Let’s use space tech to solve our problems first,” says Temidayo.

He adds that more Africans are traveling to developed countries to learn about the space industry and returning to contribute towards it in Africa.

“With the rate at which we are growing, I think the future is bright… My goal is to actually see a booming space industry in Africa,” he says.

“I want to see the first commercial space unicorn in Africa. If I see that, I’m going to be super happy.”

He believes that although Africa may not currently be at the forefront of the space race, more local businesses and startups should be involved.

Global players in another realm

Space is a dark, airless vacuum, full of radiation and unknown microorganisms.

But for some companies, this vacuum can throw up big business possibilities.

Since the mid-20th century, during the cold war, space exploration has seen stiff competition.

Now, it has become easier and less costly to fly to space or send satellites to space.

According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) 2017 annual report, there are approximately 4,600 satellites in the earth’s orbit.

A Celestis capsule attached to a rocket. Picture: Supplied

In 2017 alone, there were 553 satellites and other space objects registered.

These were a combination of privately-owned and government objects. This is an increase of 8.91% compared to satellites registered in 2016. The countries with the most satellites in space are Russia, the UnitedStates, China, Japan, France and India.

This shows a rising interest in space exploration as scientists keep developing more economical space rockets.

At the moment, Space X is one of the most notable companies making an impact in the space industry.

The big American corporate founded by South Africa-born techpreneur, Elon Musk, is known for designing, manufacturing and launching advanced rockets and spacecraft.

In 2012, it became the first privately-owned company to send a spacecraft, known as Dragon, to the ISS to deliver cargo and return to earth.

Since then, there has been an increase in the number of private players looking to the stars.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of $1.1 trillion or more by 2040, up from$350 billion.

Apart from the exploration of intelligent life forms, investors are looking for out-of-the-world profits.

Billionaire Richard Branson is in the space race and his company Virgin Galactic is hoping to put people in space soon.

“One of our biggest investments has been the space companies, which we have already invested $1 billion to set up,” he says in FORBES’ 100th anniversary issue in 2017.

Ashes among the stars 

One other company invested in the space industry is the Houston-based Celestis. If anything, it has transformed the way memorials are done.

The company has been launching the ashes of loved ones into space since 1997.

It garnered global attention when it dispatched a symbolic portion of the cremated remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, 1960sicon Timothy Leary, and 22 other participants into earth’s orbit aboard a Pegasus rocket.

Charles Chafer, the CEO of Celestis, co-founded the business in 1994.

“Our job was to put together two of the most conservative industries out there, the space industry and the funeral industry,” he tellsFORBES AFRICA.

Since then, they have been dominating the memorial space industry and have not looked back.

Charles Chafer. Picture: Supplied

The ashes are kept in a capsule and transported into space via rockets traveling there.

The company offers services to launch the capsule into space in a zero gravity environment and then return it to earth.

Another service includes launching the capsule into orbit where it remains until it re-enters the atmosphere.

Lastly, the capsule can also be launched to permanently remain on the moon.

Each capsule has a tracker and transmits the data of its location.

In 2019, the company plans to launch a voyager service that will send the spacecraft carrying the capsules on a permanent journey through space.

Chafer says the space industry offers many avenues for growth.

“We have an opportunity to extend our civilization at large throughout the solar system,” he says.

“I see it as an opportunity that’s not just economic and cultural, but a human opportunity… It’s pretty simple because I think  we are starting to see that you cannot have unlimited growth of any kind in a finite system and earth is a finite system,” he says.

The company has seen vertical growth.

“We have basically doubled our revenues every year for the last three years,” says Chafer.

But there is no guarantee every startup will be successful, he adds.

“The great thing about having different companies is that there will be a lot of good ideas. But by no means will all of them make it…You need a lot for some of the best ones to emerge and become part of that economy.”

Chafer believes his business is here to stay,  and in the future, he would like his own remains to be sent off to the depths of space.


Rocket launch at Celestis. Picture: Supplied
The risks at zero gravity

Meir Moalem, a former fighter pilot from Israel, is the CEO and co-founder of Sky and Space Global ltd.

Growing up, Moalem was a space geek.

“I always considered myself a space junkie. I loved astronomy and read all the science fiction books. So it was very clear to me that when I’d come of age, I would do something that involves physics, astronomy, space or something like that,” he says.

Instead, he found himself becoming a jet pilot in the Israeli air force and spent 25 years there. That’s also when he decided to acquire a degree in physics and get involved in Israel’s space industry.

When he graduated, he became the manager of an Israeli project that sent an astronaut to space.

In 2003, a friend, Ilan Ramon, was part of a seven-crew member trip to space on board the space shuttle Columbia. He was Israel’s first astronaut.

However, the two-week mission ended in tragedy as the shuttle was destroyed 16 minutes before it landed on earth. All seven crew members died.

“It was also a reminder about how dangerous space is. It is exciting, it is sexy, it invigorates the imagination, it has a huge value but it is also a risky business,” Moalem tells FORBES AFRICA.

A quick Google search reveals that there have been 30 recorded fatalities resulting from space flights or testing.

“When people are not involved and when a satellite explodes on a launchpad, we tend to think it’s only money, but although lives are notlost, it is not only money.

“It’s people who have invested years of their lives in a mission and were looking forward to see the success of their work being put into that, but it is a risky business,” he says.

NASA and Space.com estimate the average space shuttle mission costs between $450 million and $1.6 billion.

According to Business Insider, one of the most expensive failed space missions lost $424 million.

This was a NASA launch in 2011.

The satellite was meant to track the earth’s climate but encountered problems when the rocket’s nose cone failed to separate.

In developing countries that depend on internationally-owned satellites, that loss also has an impact, says Majaja.

“Imagine just one day, a satellite is switched off and you are unable to do a transaction you want with your financial institution.

Meir Moalem. Picture: Supplied

“Imagine all of us in South Africa… our lives will come to an end, the company’s lives will come to an end, these economies will come to a standstill,” she says.

The failure of satellites can have an enormous ripple effect on the whole world.

Moalem says it is a very difficult and complex business but it’s also about innovation.

Despite the major risks involved, his company launched its first satellite in June 2017.

Now, it’s planning to launch 200 nanosatellites into orbit in 2019.

“Up until now, when you are working on a commercial space application, it is extremely expensive and you are working for years and years and you have a satellite that costs $200 million or $300 million or a rocket that costs $100 million and God forbid something happens, and you lose years and years of effort,” he says.

Moalem is planning to change the risk factors involved in space projects.

“We are actually transforming that and creating a reliable ecosystem,” he says.

Instead of launching the 200 satellites at one go, they are launching 20 to 25 satellites every three months so that if something inadvertent were to happen, it would have less of an impact on the business or overall program.

 “What we are doing is completely disruptive and it has transformed the capital structure in the space business,” he says.

“You don’t need hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to build a commercial space company. You can do with a lot less and still provide very good services and very good capabilities to your customers.

“We are changing the way we are thinking about it and making the space business or space endeavours more reliable, more trust-worthy,” he adds.

He says it is becoming cheaper and the trust factor is in place now because you can contain the risk.

Moalem’s business has been able to raise $35 million on the Australian stock exchange.

Through the 200 nanosatellites, he hopes to improve mobile communication coverage globally by offering a service to internet of things services and data service providers for faster and efficient communication.

No doubt there have been huge leaps in the journeys to space with advancements in communication and technology.

This has also been fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation.

Outer space has become a level playing field, and Africa is ready to lift-off.

Continue Reading

Trending