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Cameroonian Scientist Advocates for African-Owned Satellites to Enhance Emergency Responses

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louis Buyisiwe

Apr 7, 2024

Satellites to help save the lives of people on Earth in emergencies

As a geospatial expert for the NGO Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, she creates maps to help emergency services navigate an unpredictable territory so that people in need can be reached quickly
Marie Makuate, a geospatial expert from Cameroon, is championing the cause for more African countries to invest in space technology to improve emergency response and other critical services.

In the wake of the Morocco earthquake last September, Makuate's expertise in satellite image analysis proved indispensable, offering crucial data for disaster relief efforts led by organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières.

Operating from Yaoundé, Makuate, who works for the NGO Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, underscores the significance of satellite data in creating detailed maps that guide emergency services through disaster-stricken areas. Despite the utility, the high cost of satellite images—reaching up to $25 per square kilometer—poses a challenge, particularly in times of urgent need.

The NewSpace Africa Conference held in Luanda, Angola, served as a platform for Makuate and other industry specialists to discuss the potential of the African space sector, which is anticipated to exceed $20 billion by 2026. However, a significant portion of this value is generated by foreign companies providing services to African nations.

Prominent figures like Dr. Zolana João, general manager of the Angolan National Space Programme, echoed Makuate's sentiments on the necessity for increased internal investment in space technology. This approach aims to furnish African governments with precise and actionable data, enhancing decision-making processes in various sectors.

With South Africa and Egypt leading the continent with 13 satellites each, the call for broader participation underscores a pivotal moment for Africa's engagement in the global space industry. The movement advocates for leveraging space technology not just for emergency response but also for agricultural advancement, population analysis, and natural resource management.

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