“Scholars are bound to succeed or fail depending on how skills, expertise and competencies are harnessed together in addressing the empire of problems confronting compatriots across Africa”. This was the submission of Prof Charles Ukeje, the guest lecturer during the 21st graduation ceremony of the Postgraduate Diploma Programme of the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education-English (ARCSSTEE), Obafemi Awolowo University campus, Ile Ife.
The guest speaker also identified the top 5 security challenges facing Africa to include: Food security; Climate change; Organized Crime (Terrorism and violence); Health Security; and Economic security.
Prof Ukeje opined that Science, technology and innovation is being adopted in the achievement of the SDGs including SDG 2 on ending hunger and achieving food security, using satellite technologies and serves as a new tool for African nations to improve agricultural productivity and resource management. He cited China’s CropWatch, GhanaSat-1, NASA’s Harvest Mission and Landsat program of Earth Observation satellites, Monitoring Agriculture with Remote Sensing System from the European Commission as examples of efforts geared towards minimizing risks of future famine/drought, poaching, illegal mining etc.
Prof Charles Ukeje
Guest Lecturer, 21st Postgraduate Graduation Ceremony
The guest lecturer suggested strong space programmes that can help drive e-governance uptake thereby generating more reliable data, support socioeconomic development and strengthen anti-corruption initiatives in Africa. He admonished the graduands to continue brainstorming on strategies and solutions that are encompassing, inclusive, comprehensive and sustainable.
In his congratulatory speech, the Director-General, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr Halilu Shaba, ably represented by the Director, Strategic Space Applications (SSA), Dr Matthew Adepoju, commended the facts that ten (10) out of the graduating students were females and also that the Centre has graduated 558 students from 18 Anglo-phone countries since its inception in five key areas of Remote Sensing, Satellite Communication, Global Navigation Satellite Systems, Satellite Meteorology, and Basic Space and Atmospheric Science. Also worth mentioning was the milestone of graduating the first participant in Space Law.
Dr Matthew Adepoju
Representing the Director-General, NASRDA
Dr Shaba revealed that Space, previously dominated by just two countries (USA and Russia) now involved more than sixty-five national space agencies even as the list of countries setting their sights on space continues to increase. He also noted that the emergence and involvement of private actors in the space industry has become significant and continues to grow. This increase in the number of private entities planning to explore the outer space has demonstrated that private enterprises will dominate space at a time when governments and nations around the globe face fiscal pressures that are forcing them to rethink their galactic ambitions.
The DG charged the Management of the Institution to review the curriculum to ensure graduates are prepared for the foray into private practice with great opportunities and potential to tap into Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics Engineering applications.
Dr Shaba stated that the Agency (NARSDA) has long recognized the critical role ARCSSTE-E plays in the training of scientists, educators, and professionals in the key areas of application of Space Science and Technology. This explains why it has consistently enrolled its staff to participate in the postgraduate diploma programme of ARCSSTE-E to acquire the requisite knowledge and skills for application in the various departments and units of the Agency. He reiterated the continuous commitment of the Agency to support the Centre’s efforts in the implementation of its mandates.
Dr Shaba congratulated the participants and encouraged them to put the knowledge and skills acquired to good use in their respective places and areas of work. He challenged them not to see the training as another addition to their credentials or qualifications but rather as an opportunity to help deploy Space Science and Technology to tackle the interlocking crises of hunger, disease, environmental degradation, security and conflicts holding Africa back as the journey ahead is for those that have solutions to the problems confronting us.
The Acting Director of ARCSSTEE, Mrs Lami Ali-Fadiora explained that in spite of huge challenges brought on by paucity of funds, the Centre through the support of the Agency has continued to sustain the implementation and execution of the PGD programme. She informed the gathering that as part of the agreement signed by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affair (UNOOSA) upon the establishment of the Centre for the Anglo-Phone region, participating member states have not actively committed to the Centre in terms of funding and technical support. However, in spite of these humongous challenges, foreign participants have continued to receive full scholarships. which is done to sustain the agreement between the Centre and the UNOOSA.
ARCSSTE-E’s Acting Director, Mrs Lami Ali-Fadiora presenting PGD certificate to one of the graduands.
Mrs Ali-Fadiora also informed the audience that ARCSSTE-E’s Governing Board, which is the overall policy-making body saddled with the responsibility to among others, offer technical advice, mobilize funds and participation of member states especially mobilization to increase enrolment and participation in the PGD programme by citizens of member states has not succeeded in carrying out its assignments. Regrettably, efforts made by the Centre to make the GB live up to expectations are yet to yield positive results. She remarked that four-member states have signed the MOU while Technical Committees have been constituted and in an effort to revive the GB, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has severally directed that the GB meetings should resume.
She congratulated the graduands and hoped that the modest facilities offered by ARCSSTE-E in terms of lecturers, training materials and other teaching methods and tools were adequate enough for the effective training and success of the programme. She informed them of their new status as bonafide Alumni members of ARCSSTE-E. Mrs Ali-Fadiora appreciated NASRDA and Obafemi Awolowo University for their unrelenting support and partnership towards the success of the Academic Programmes of ARCSSTEE.
Goodwill messages were also delivered by other dignitaries that graced the event including the immediate past Directors of the Centre, Profesor Joseph Akinyede and Dr. G. I. Agbaje; and the Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.
The event which witnessed the playing of the National Anthems of all the participating countries and was covered by several media houses had as its high point the presentation of certificates and special awards to students who excelled in one area of academics or the other. The award of the Best Graduating Student went to Mr Haruna Nuhu. Mr Nuhu also received the best student in the Remote Sensing/GIS option. Ms Marie-Ann Maringapasi from Zimbabwe also received the award of the best student in the Satellite Communication option. The award for the best student project went to Mr Ebenezer Tetteh from Ghana. A special prize for the best graduating female student went to Mrs Adenike Akinpelumi.