As humanity explores new frontiers in space, the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon serves as a reflection of where we have come from, and where we are to go next. What does it mean for the estimated $7 billion space industry in Africa?
July 20, 1969, will always be remembered as the year man made earth-shaking history.
It was one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Apollo 11 became the first aircraft to land safely on the moon.
In Africa, just a year after this historic moment, Kenya launched its first satellite named Uhuru, meaning ‘freedom’ in Swahili.
It was Africa’s giant leap. It was sponsored by NASA and was the first earth-orbiting mission dedicated to celestial X-ray astronomy.
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It is speculated that in 1970 and 1973, Kenya was given two rocks collected from the Apollo 11 and 17 lunar missions. Since then, more African nations have joined the space race.
“The space industry is worth $400 billion and in Africa, the space industry is worth up to $7 billion,” Nigerian space enthusiast and entrepreneur, Oniosun Temidayo, says.
He grew up in Oyo State in the southwest of Nigeria, thousands of kilometers away from where the Apollo mission took place, yet he is fueled with passion for the space industry.
Temidayo is the founder of Space in Africa, a platform that covers business, technology, discoveries, events and political news on the African space and satellite industry.
As per his research with Space in Africa, it is expected that by 2024, at least 15 African countries would have launched at least one satellite into space.
These include Algeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan and Tunisia. Senegal has set a two-year target to launch its first nanosatellite.
“The total projected number of satellites by African countries is rising from 35 to 64 within the same period; a 83 percent increase in the number of satellites in the region,” Temidayo says.
According to the African Space Industry Annual Report 2019: “The aggregate GDP of the continent has doubled in the last 10 years, to over $2.2 trillion. The African space market is now worth over $7 billion annually, and we project that is likely to grow over 40% in the next five years to exceed $10 billion by 2024.”
There are many commercial ventures aligned to investing in the space industry in Africa.
The report states that over 8,500 people are employed in the African space industry.
“African engineers built 14 of the 35 satellites, including those they built in Africa and others using facilities outside of Africa,” the report said, implementing the continental space policy under the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063.
Egypt was approved as host country for the headquarters of the new African Space Agency passed by the AU.
One of the agency’s objectives is strengthening “space missions on the continent in order to ensure optimal access to space-derived data, information, services and products”.
Africa’s plans have surely sky-rocketed in this regard.
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It has been 17 years since South African-born tech entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth, became the first African in space.
Called the ‘Afronaut’, at 28, he became the second-ever space tourist flying to the International Space Station as a member of the Soyuz TM-34.
He paid about $20 million to spend eight days there; a dream only a few could afford then – and even now.
Today, Temidayo aspires to reach for the stars like Shuttleworth did.
But until then, he continues to build a body of work on the African space economy.
50 years of the lunar landing
Last month, Temidayo and his team celebrated the 50th anniversary of Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the Moon.
To celebrate, his team featured 10 of the brightest young professionals under the age of 30 who are doing incredible work in the African space industry, calling them ‘The Future of the African Space Industry’.
“These are 10 young professionals below the age of 30. Their work cuts across space engineering, geospatial technologies, space law and business development. They are already influencing the growth of the industry,” he says.
“The exciting thing about this is that, they are mostly women,” Temidayo reveals.
Thousands of kilometers away, another man was also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission – Aldrin, the man who was on the moon with Armstrong, and who turned 89 this year.
“Ten, nine, ignition sequence start, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero, all engines running. We have a lift off, lift off on Apollo 11,” were the immortal words on the space intercom during Apollo 11’s launch.
On the day, 530 million TV viewers watched the astronauts take their first steps on the moon.
“The moon landing was not just a US achievement. It was a global achievement,” Temidayo says.
Reflecting on the mission, Aldrin posted a tweet with an image of him and his fellow Apollo 11 astronauts, including mission commander Armstrong, examining a lunar sample brought back from the moon.
As part of the celebrations, Buzz Aldrin Ventures had a party planned; the Official Apollo XI 50th Anniversary Gala at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s Air Force One Pavilion in Simi Valley with himself to honor the mission, team and crew that made history in 1969.
For his journey to space, it is reported that Aldrin carried wine, bread, and a chalice for communion while Armstrong carried a piece of the wooden propeller of the Wright Flyer (the first successful heavier-than-air powered aircraft built by the Wright brothers).
“When we made it to the moon, it was uncharted territory – literally! Our 21-day quarantine was a necessary precaution at the time… we didn’t know if there were any microorganisms on the moon,” Aldrin said in a Twitter post.
Meanwhile, NASA rolled out numerous activities for anyone to get involved in the 50th anniversary celebrations.
NASA says it is working to establish a permanent human presence on the moon within the next decade to uncover new scientific discoveries and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.
Warning: COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps Could Be Turned Into Tools For Domestic Abuse
If governments don’t focus on strong privacy protections in their COVID-19 contact tracking tools, it could exacerbate domestic abuse and endanger survivors, according to a warning from women’s support charities.
They’ve urged the U.K. government to include domestic abuse and violence against women and girls (VAWG) experts in the development of such initiatives.
Though the U.K. doesn’t yet have a widely available track and trace app, the charities – including Women’s Aid and Refuge – are already anxious enough about the current tracing program, where infected people are called up and asked to register themselves online as someone who has contracted COVID-19. They’re then asked to share details on people with whom they’ve been in contact so they too can be informed.
In a joint whitepaper, the nonprofits said they were anxious about contact tracing staff inadvertently leaking contact details of survivors to perpetrators. They also raised fears the program could be turned into a “tool for abuse.”
“For example, perpetrators may make fraudulent claims that they have been in contact with survivors in order for them to be asked to self-isolate unnecessarily, and in these circumstances survivors will have no means to identify the perpetrator as the original source,” they warned. “Perpetrators or associates may also pose as contact tracing staff and make contact with victims [or] survivors requesting they self-isolate or requesting personal information.”
The paper also claims abusers are already using the coronavirus pandemic for “coercive control,” in some cases deliberately breathing, spitting and coughing in survivors’ faces. As Forbes previously reported, the sharing of child abuse material has also spiked during global COVID-19 lockdowns.
As for apps, the report warned they required location services to be switched on. “While the NHS app itself doesn’t collect location data, if a perpetrator has installed spyware onto a survivor’s phone or is able to hack into it, then turning on location services will expose their location.”
Problems with Palantir?
The charities also raised concerns about a number of companies who’d partnered with the U.K. on the contact tracing initiatives. They said Serco, which is handling recruiting for contact tracing staff, “has a significant track record of failings and human rights violations, including running a controversial women’s immigration detention centre where staff have been accused of sexual misconduct and involvement in unlawful evictions of asylum seekers.” Serco also recently had to apologize for leaking email addresses of contact tracer staff.
Serco denies that it has any kind of significant track record of failing and human rights violations and that the evictions to which the charities are referring were in Scotland and were ruled legal. It also said that in seven years there had been no substantiated complaints about any sexual wrongdoing at the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, where reports had revealed allegations.
“We are proud to be supporting the government’s test and trace programme with our Tier 3 contact centre team working from pre-approved Public Health England scripts. This is important work and we would like to thank all our teams who have stepped forward. In just four week we mobilised many thousands of people, which is a huge achievement, and we are focussed on ensuring that all our people are able to support the government’s programme going forwards,” a Serco spokesperson said.
Palantir, the $20 billion big data crunching business, also raised an eyebrow. The company, which has secured millions of dollars in contracts to help health agencies manage the outbreak, has come in for criticism for assisting U.S. immigration authorities on finding and ejecting illegal aliens.
Palantir hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
UK’s delayed COVID-19 app
The charities’ warning comes as the U.K. announced its contact tracing app would be shifting to the Apple and Google models, which promise stronger privacy protections than the app being tested by the government. The main difference is in where user information goes. In the government’s app, anonymized phone IDs of both the infected person and the people they’ve been near are sent to a centralized server, which determines who to warn about possible COVID-19 infection. In the Apple and Google model, only the phone ID of the infected person is sent to a centralized database. The phone then downloads the database and decides where to send alerts. The latter means the government has access to far less data on people’s phones, pleasing some critics but aggravating the government.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that Apple’s restrictions on third-party apps’ use of Bluetooth may’ve been one reason the government’s own app wasn’t as successful as hoped. Bluetooth is being used to determine whether an infected person has been in close proximity with another person’s phone.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International cybersecurity researcher Claudio Guarnieri warned that global rollouts of contact tracing apps were a privacy “trash fire.” After analyzing 11 apps, he found many contained privacy shortcomings. So concerned was Norway that it suspended its tool.
Even with lockdowns easing, those who’re infected are still being advised to isolate. However, the NHS guidance says that “the household isolation instruction as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.” That message may not have been amplified as much as it should’ve been.
Twitter Begins Asking Users To Actually Read Articles Before Sharing Them
TOPLINE Twitter announced Wednesday that it will test a new feature that will prompt users to open up a link to an article before sharing it, which appears to be a move to further combat the spread of misinformation on the platform.
- Some Twitter uses may be subject to a prompt to click on a link if they try to retweet without reading the article first, billed by Twitter as a feature “designed to empower healthy and informed public conversation.”
- English speakers on Android devices will be the first to see the tests.Users will still have the ability to retweet a message without clicking the link first if they chose to tap through the prompt.
- According to Twitter Support, an official company account, the platform will only check if a user has clicked the article link recently through Twitter, not elsewhere on the internet.
- Twitter denied some skeptical users’ accusations that the platform is testing the feature to establish a revenue stream via click-through to outside websites, saying the platform is not testing ad products with the prompts.
- Twitter Support told one user it would watch to see if reminding users to read an article before they share it leads to more informed discussion.
“It’s easy for links [and] articles to go viral on Twitter. This can be powerful but sometimes dangerous, especially if people haven’t read the content they’re spreading. This feature (on Android for now) encourages people to read a linked article prior to retweeting it,” Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour commented upon the announcement of the feature testing.
The new prompt tests are the latest Twitter effort to curb the spread of misinformation on the platform. Twitter last month displayed fact-check tags on two of President Donald Trump’s tweets that featured misleading information regarding mail-in ballots and voter fraud. Twitter also rolled out testing for a new feature to allow users to limit who can reply to their tweets. The platform has faced criticism from both sides of the aisle in recent weeks, from conservatives over accusations of censorship and from the left for not doing enough to stifle misinformation.
Op-Ed: From Cashless To Digital: The Covid-19 Tipping Point
People’s safety concerns about transmission through contact has resulted in Covid-19 becoming a catalyst for the adoption of cashless payments globally and even more so in South Africa, with the disruption expected to effect lasting changes in the way people transact with cards and cash.
While consumers had already begun to embrace digital payment options prior to the pandemic, the health crisis is rapidly accelerating the adoption rate with more consumers seeking safer, contact-free payment methods.
This rapid adoption of digital payments will help shape a new normal as businesses begin to emerge from the more stringent levels of lockdown regulations and attempt to navigate their post-Covid-19 futures.
Derek Cikes, Commercial Director at Payflex, says the pandemic represents a watershed for the payments industry.
“The acceleration towards a cashless society is one of the key opportunities that has emerged from the pandemic, bringing the advantages of digital payments to the fore including lower fees, convenience, seamless delivery, greater security, and more flexible payment options,” says Cikes who adds that what makes this trend so interesting, is that historically, people used to hoard cash in times of crisis. Now, the opposite is occurring.
A study by MasterCard revealed that since the beginning of Covid-19 in South Africa, 89 percent of South African respondents have been using contactless methods to pay for groceries, 60 percent for pharmaceutical items, 39 percent for other retail items, 15 percent for fast food, and eight percent for transport.
Similarly, recent figures from Bain echo this, with estimates that by 2025, the adoption of digital payments could accelerate by a 5 – 10 percentage point increase globally, above what was previously anticipated at 57% before Covid-19 to 67% after Covid-19.
Are contactless payments here to stay?
Cash is perceived as a vehicle for the transmission of the virus. As stores, restaurants and other merchants begin to open their doors again, contactless payments are key in providing consumers with a much-needed sense of comfort and reassurance.
“Businesses have no option but to rethink their use of shared payment surfaces, with customers more conscious than ever of what they touch. People don’t want to touch ATM or PIN pads or have to hand their cards to store tellers. Once viewed as a convenience or nice-to-have, digital payments are now viewed as a critical service, providing a solution to limiting contact with other surfaces,” says Cikes.
Creation of new payment habits
From banking facilities like tap-to-pay, payment apps such as Zapper and Snapscan, to digital banking and e-wallet providers, South African fintech firms have reported significant increases in the use and adoption of digital payment methods since the outbreak began in March. The simple truth is, while these channels provide a convenient way of paying, they are also contactless, allowing consumers to pay for their goods while not having to exchange cash or cards with merchants.
“The perception of cards and cash as vehicles for transferring microorganisms has changed how people physically interact with their payments in favour of contactless options. With health and safety being top priorities, we anticipate this trend to become more permanent with hygiene measures and social distancing likely to become part and parcel of our daily realities for years to come,” says Cikes.
Retailers drive adoption of digital payments
Both online and brick and mortar retailers are helping to accelerate this trend with stores like Mr Price enabling consumers a contactless way to pay in-store pay via their app, and most South African retailers offering tap-to-pay-methods. There is also an expected uptick in omnichannel capabilities (being able to sell your goods through many channels such as website, app, retail, third-party platforms such as Amazon or Shopify) which bridges payments in any environment, physical or digital.
Another contactless payment method driving this trend is e-wallets with over 500 million mobile money users expected on the continent in 2020. In addition, it is anticipated that the capabilities of digital wallets will expand to offer features such as digital IDs and transaction monitoring and reporting, which is expected to create even more growth for this payment mechanism.
Flexibility needed more than ever
According to TransUnion’s Financial Hardship Survey, conducted in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, Hong Kong and South Africa, one in six people lost their job in early May, with defaulting on their bills just seven weeks away. 82% of consumers indicated their household income had been impacted, and on average, consumers who were impacted, expect they will be short by R 7 542.90 when paying bills or loans.
“Many people are financially stretched and need the support of alternative payment solutions to help manage their cash flow without incurring further credit card debt,” says Cikes.
A report by GlobalWebIndex shows that 83% of South African consumers are expecting flexible payment options from brands.
“We have seen this play out in the increased uptake of our Payflex Buy Now Pay Later payment solution, which allows people to make interest-free payments over two paychecks,” says Cikes.
With health, safety and financial security at the forefront of consumer sentiments, companies will need to provide payment options which meet these consumer needs.
“Digital payment solutions provide an avenue which safeguards against physical interaction, enabling both consumers and business to navigate the environment as the economy is restarted. These digital adoptions will not only help manage the current situation but will also have far-reaching benefits, facilitating a more customer-centric, efficient and resilient economy,” concludes Cikes.
-Derek Cikes, Commercial Director, Payflex
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