Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group Limited and Touchroad International Holdings Group have recently signed a memorandum agreeing to build a new spaceport in the northern Obock Region of Djibouti. The new spaceport brings Djibouti promise and should alleviate Djibouti’s poverty. The international commercial spaceport will have seven satellite launchpads and three rocket testing pads. The Republic of Djibouti received $1 billion with five years to complete the project before use begins.

Djibouti’s Poverty and Unemployment

According to the most recent data, with 21.1% of the population living in extreme poverty, Djibouti is a poor nation. The unemployment rate for Djibouti is also high. In 2021, it was 28.39%. The spaceport should increase employment and therefore help lower the poverty rate.

Africa’s Growing Space Ambitions

This project is Djibouti’s entry into an energized spaceport industry on the African continent. South Africa and Egypt sit at the forefront of African space development, but they are by no means alone. Private sector investment is driving space race competition on the continent. That competitive market, in turn, should bolster Djibouti’s technological development.

Oman, a country near Djibouti, is also planning its entry into the spaceport industry. The National Aerospace Services Company’s Etlaq Space Launch Complex should be operational in 2024. It will focus on educational and commercial orbital and suborbital launches from Duqm, a port city.

Djibouti’s Space Entrance Beyond the Spaceport

Djibouti’s new spaceport is not the only space development in the country. Last year the country also announced its plans to launch two satellites named Djibouti 1A and Djibouti 1B. Djibouti worked with the Van Allen Foundation on plans for these satellites specifically to support the nation’s sustainable development goals. In addition, Djibouti sent 10 engineers to the University Space Centre of Montpellier, France to learn about satellite development.

Djibouti’s New Spaceport Supporting Development

Djibouti’s new spaceport could offer significant employment and educational opportunities for the nation. Djibouti falls far behind the African average in terms of current research output per capita. Only 11% of students in Djibouti either complete secondary school or go on to further education such as a university.

In the past, African research has not generated public engagement. As Nigerian virologist Oyewale Tomoris noted in a recent interview, “If your science doesn’t affect the life of your people, nobody cares about you.” Most recently, though, Africa is, nonetheless, beginning to be a site of exciting development in terms of scientific technologies.

The spaceport could support Djibouti in the creation of scientific jobs and research. The development of a spaceport of a similar size in Cornwall, England, will likely generate 240 jobs, not including those involved in the building of the spaceport and its associated businesses. Projections have indicated that it could bring the British economy an additional 240 million pounds of gross added value. Djibouti’s new spaceport could generate a similar number of jobs and added value. The facility can also help reduce the brain drain in Europe and North America, with which so many African countries struggle. The spaceport will also involve the construction of a highway and a port which will benefit all residents of the country.

Djibouti’s Geopolitical Influence

In addition to scientific development, the spaceport can help Djibouti to increase its influence on the global stage. The country is only small at only 23,200 square kilometers, but it is already home to the only United States military base on African soil. Camp Lemonnier has increased Djibouti’s geopolitical influence and supports Djibouti with humanitarian aid and community support.

Djibouti is increasingly participating in international politics. On January 9, 2023, the country became the latest member to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), at the United Nations headquarters in New York. As the country becomes more influential, it will undoubtedly experience the associated benefits.The plans to develop a new spaceport in Djibouti represent an exciting time for the country. The new spaceport brings Djibouti promise. In addition to providing infrastructure and bringing new technology and research to the country, the new spaceport should help alleviate Djibouti’s poverty.

– Florence Jones
Photo: Flickr

Every year the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) pay tribute to the United State’s federal workers by recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the U.S. Medalists are honored based on their commitment, innovation, and the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.

This year USAID worker and her team are one of the finalists for the 2013 National Security and International Affairs Medal, one of the eight Sammies medal categories. Cara Christie and USAID’s Horn Drought Emergency Response Team are among the finalists in this category for their tireless endeavors in leading the relief effort following the drought in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya in the Horn of Africa. Christie coordinated the relief effort from her office in Washington D. C.,  providing immediate emergency relief to the affected countries and enacting methods to improve their agrarian economies after they had been decimated by three years of the worst drought that the Horn of Africa has ever seen.

Not only did Christie lead the relief efforts, but she is credited with recognizing the significance of the impending famine almost a year before it unfolded. Christie convinced her superiors in USAID of the need to be proactive by making advance preparations in the fall of 2010—a move that hastened aid to the region and saved lives. Christie used lessons learned from other drought response situations to come up with a program pairing health, nutrition, water, and sanitation program with food and voucher programs that helped repair the damaged economies in the Horn of Africa.

It may seem strange that an award given for service to the United States could be received by a team dedicated to giving relief to another country, but in reality Christie’s actions were crucial to U.S. national security interests. The Horn of Africa represents one of the regions of the world that most threatens U.S. national security because it houses some of the most conflict prone states in the world, including Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. It also is in close proximity to Yemen, a major center of U.S. counterterrorism action. The U.S. also houses the military base Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, which serves as the most important staging ground for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Aid efforts in the region, along with in the rest of the world, contribute to stability and thereby hold radicalization at bay, furthering U.S. interests, and making the U.S. more secure.

– Martin Drake

Sources: Washington Post
Photo: USAID