Nigeria and Rwanda First African Nations Sign the Artemis Accords – Strengthening the U.S.-Africa Partnership in Space

By Uzman Unis Bah

The 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit featured the first-ever U.S.-Africa Space Forum, which saw the signing of the Artemis Accords by Nigeria and Rwanda, making them the first African signatories. The Artemis Accords are a set of principles to guide the next phase in space exploration, reinforcing and providing for operational implementation of the obligations in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, noted the Fact Sheet from White House.

Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy signed the Artemis Accords on behalf of Nigeria, while Francis Ngabo, CEO of Rwanda Space Agency, signed the Accords on behalf of Rwanda. They were joined on the U.S. side by Assistant Secretary of State Monica Medina, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Bill Nelson, and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Chirag Parikh.

NASA’s Artemis program seeks to land the first woman and first person of colour on the Moon and conduct a historic first crewed mission to Mars. The program, comprising a series of robotic and crewed science and exploration missions, is planned to be the most diverse international human space exploration coalition on record.

The Forum reaffirmed the United States’ assurance to collaborating with African partners on the peaceful use and exploration of outer space to meet shared priorities for planet Earth. The Forum highlighted the U.S.-Africa space partnership and cooperation to address 21st century challenges and opportunities, including responding to the climate, biodiversity, and global food crises; promoting responsible behavior in outer space; and reinforcing U.S.-African scientific and commercial space cooperation, a Fact Sheet from the White House mentioned.

The Forum also discussed the role of the private sector in supporting U.S.-Africa space partnership. A number of U.S. companies have recently declared new investments in the U.S.-Africa partnership.

The Rwanda Space Agency and ATLAS Space Operations have partnered to bring a teleport and large satellite antenna to the global space community. Planet Labs PBC is investing across Africa with a range of stakeholders to deliver daily satellite imagery and geospatial solutions that help meet sustainability, economic, and resource management priorities, including supporting decision making on drought risk protection, forest management, and renewable energy.

Nigeria announced that SpaceX’s high-speed, low latency broadband service Starlink is now available in the country, making Nigeria the first country in Africa where Starlink is available.

The Artemis Accords represent a bold, multilateral vision for the future of space exploration; Launched by the State Department and NASA together with eight nations in 2020, the Artemis Accords advance bilateral and multilateral space cooperation between signatories, expanding knowledge of the universe and benefiting the whole world.

Signatories commit to codes to guide their civil space activities, including the public release of scientific data, responsible debris mitigation, registration of space objects, and the formation and application of interoperability standards.

According the Fact Sheet of the U.S Department of State, the Accords confirm the importance of implementing best practices and norms of responsible behavior as well as compliance with the Registration Convention and the Rescue and Return Agreement.

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