There is a dearth of capacity in space policy, strategy and law on the African continent, which is critical for understanding and framing any new space initiatives. There are currently no university or higher education programs in Africa that offer space policy, strategy and law curriculum, with a net consequence of limited research being undertaken on the continent on policy, strategy and law related matters due to the lack of capacity.
Given the manifold elements of a formal space program that needs to be taken into account during the conceptualisation and design phase, if due attention is not paid to these elements during this phase then the ensuing trajectory and development of such programs become questionable further down the evolution of the program.
A net consequence of the capacity constraints articulated above is poor decision making due to the lack of knowledge, experience and understanding of policy and law issues. This ties to the lack of understanding of what sustainable space programs require and the lack of knowledge on how to manage resources (human, financial, facilities, etc) effectively. Drawing from the experiences of experts from elsewhere in the world is one way around this challenge, but this is not the most effective approach as the African context is unique and must be taken into account in the framing and positioning of space programs. Consequently, we observe a weak strategic positioning of space programs on the continent due to such programs being initiated without insights into the proper policy and strategic contexts.
Our observation over the many decades has also shown the ineffective participation of ‘African experts’ in international forums. We enter into the negotiation halls at multilateral forums with national/regional positions that to a large extent are superficial and at times stating the obvious, without adding substance to or influencing the ensuing discourse. This lack-lustre level of engagement is symptomatic of a space policy and law void on the continent leading to Africa’s international involvement being skewed as there is no policy context for intra-Africa collaboration and therefore no common understanding on pertinent policy issues. This sometimes translate to Africa being voiceless on the multilateral stage where important policy decisions are being made.
In brief, the underlying challenge statement relating to space policy and law on the African continent is that Africa has limited capacity in space policy, strategy and law, which contributes to poor decision making processes, weakened strategic positioning and implementation of space programmes, and ineffective participation in international forums.
This brings to the fore the primary purpose (Mission) of the African Space Leadership Institute (ASLI), which is “To build capacity and transform our knowledge about issues relating to space policy, strategy and law”.
The Mission of ASLI is intended to be transformative such that eventually Africa has exceptional capacity in space policy, strategy and law, which contributes to good decision making processes, strong strategic positioning and implementation of space programmes, and effective participation in international forums.