#WEFAfrica17: Solutions From Space

Thousands of refugees have been trained to do coding, making them employable, the World Economic Forum on Africa session titled “Solutions from Space” heard on Friday.

Sunil Geness from software company SAP said the training programme was moving through 10 countries, including France, Germany, North Palestine, Iraq, Denmark and Sweden.

“Coding is the language of the future,” he said, adding that his company wished to expand the programme to help with job creation.

The session heard that the effects of migration had made space science highly relevant, given the amount of people movement in various parts of the world and the subsequent need for large-scale, rapid planning.

Closer to home, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says she sometimes picks up flack for becoming involved in space science.

“They [people from richer nations] say – let us do the space science – you feed your people.”

Her defence is that while true space science may not be cheap, its benefits can be huge in return for a small amount of the gross domestic product.

And feeding people is indeed where it can be beneficial, she pointed out.

“A few years ago, looking at a report on climate change and its impact in agrarian ability, we didn’t notice the desertification of a certain area. Had we known about it earlier [with the help of space technology] we would have been better prepared,” she said.

Panelist Saran Jones, from Liberia, who is with the organisation, Face Africa, and involved in water infrastructure to communities across the continent, said satellite planning was an attractive option for a project she was undertaking in her home country.

“In the municipality I am working the population has more than doubled over the past 10 years. It has put a strain on water infrastructure.

Jones said space technology would be useful to save time and be a more accurate way to survey the place compared with traditional survey methods.

Yosef Akhtman, CEO of Gamaya in Switzerland said space observation was not abstract.

“We use our eyes on the environment around us to make daily decisions.

“In the same way we should use satellites to collectively react to our environment.

“For forestry, agriculture, planning, we should be using satellite imagery to see what we are doing. We need to open our eyes,” he said.