Dr. Halilu Ahmed Shaba: Building Nigeria’s Space Economy to Becoming Africa’s Satellite Powerhouse

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The Nigerian multibillion dollar space economy has the potential to help rescue the country’s ailing economy by promoting socio-economic growth, while addressing governments many challenges.

This was the key mission and targets of the director-general of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr. Halilu Shaba, when he was appointed as the agency’s helmsman by President Muhammadu Buhari.

His visions and mission which is today been transformed into action at the agency was meant to maximize the innovations and growth of the space economy of Nigeria. As Nigeria seems to find itself in a precarious economic situation, exacerbated by dwindling oil resources and prices at the international oil markets, Dr. Shaba sees the country’s space economy as a hot spot to strengthen the nations economic reconstruction and recovery pathways.

Promoting the use of space related initiatives as an enabler of developments in assisting government and the private sector as a veritable alternative to oil not only from an innovative perspective, but also helping to unlock economic opportunities are the key mission of the new NASDRA under the leadership of Dr. Halilu Shaba.

The director-general, since his appointment over a year ago, is working tirelessly to systematically elevate Nigeria to be well ahead of its African counterparts in advancements in the space sector. One of his key priorities is to see Nigeria as one of the few African countries that has the engineering capacity for full designs and manufacturing of satellites communication technologies, while most countries on the continents rely on procuring these products and services from foreign partners.

The director-general has never hidden his desire to work assiduously to make Nigeria have one of the biggest and the most advanced ground segments of a spacecraft system in the African continent, with about seventy different antennas on the ground station, and houses one of the most sophisticated space weather in Africa.

NASDRA was founded to promote the use of space and strengthen cooperation in space related activities, while fostering research and development in science and technology, aeronautics and across the nation’s aerospace sector is now living up to its responsibility as a strong institution reformed to meet this challenges by the Dr. Halilu Shaba led management that is now redressing the lacuna at the agency.

Today, Nigeria is becoming increasing reliant on satellite infrastructures, using it for navigation, communications, data analytics, and weather predictions, among other functions.

 Dr. Halilu Shaba is today using the agency and its ecosystem of partners to deliver in an array of governments national priorities relating to developments in 3 basic areas: environment and resources management, health safety and security, and innovations and economic growth. These has brought a lot of positive momentum created around re-shaping the Nigerian space economy.

We are today witnessing a significant growth trajectory in terms of the projector pipelines that are coming through the space economy.

His reforms has significantly spur the growth of the space technology sector as strongly as possible and never witnessed before, and if we push forward over the next two years, the revenue stream of the space technology sector to Nigeria will be approximately up to 10billion dollars.

Today, the mission of NASRDA as an agency is to provide the needed leadership, it is now all about implementing all the projects in-house but rather re-confirming its commitments towards the stimulation of the country’s ecosystem and unlocking that potentials.

As the space economy consists of thematic programmes segmented into 4 compartments: Earth observation, navigation, communication products and services and space science and exploration. It is to the glory of his administration of the agency that today NASRDA is embarking on some landmark projects with its partners such as;

1. NASRDA is acquiring new space infrastructures to generate growth and stimulate.

2. Building telecommunication satellites that forms part of the national telecommunication strategy which are approved by the government.

3. Building a computer laboratory in partnership with its partners to allow Nigeria design satellites within a month or two as opposed to the traditional ways that takes months.

4. NASRDA is exploring various ways of hosting teleports-using thousands of satellites to provide internet connectivity to citizens from space.

During this administration of Dr. Halilu Ahmed Shaba, NASDRA introduced a new strategy, outlining a vision which is about integrating Nigeria’s national space capability, looking at it more from an ecosystem point of view and moving into providing services for Nigeria.

NASRDA’s strategic priority areas today intersects with governments policy instruments, therefore, in order to address governments priorities, we actually need space, science and technology to deliver on it’s mandates.

Today, the local space ecosystem is poised to help Nigeria unlock it’s economic growth potential and help cement its footprints in the global space landscapes. As the apex agency responsible for creating a conducive environment for research and development in the science, technology and innovation field, the space sector remains a high priority, as part of its goals to achieve a transformed, responsible and coherent national system.

Through the reforms of Dr. Halilu Ahmed Shaba, if we are looking for competitive sectors that will contribute to Nigeria’s higher GDP growth, the space sector is definitely one of them. A space economy report conducted by a global organisation shows that there are high returns on space economy investments across the globe.

Considering the funding opportunities available in Nigeria, you can imagine how much growth that could bring into the economy. We can foresee even more growth and returns on investments and we can also acknowledge that the returns are not always in monetary forms, but take several forms, including efficiency gains ,cost savings, cost avoidance and many of this are within government services delivery domains such as defence, transport, climate change monitoring etc.

In addition to funding and supporting space related infrastructural programmes, NASDRA under Dr. Halilu Shaba is looking at various policies and directives to boost the space sectors, taking into account the capital intensive nature of space industry, but also being aware of the high returns. NASRDA is on the right track under Dr. Halilu Shaba.

– Musa Wada writes from Abuja.

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