Up, Up and Away: HKS Professor's Work Inspires Kenya to Develop Space Program

January 17, 2012
By Doug Gavel

Following several years of discussions and consideration, Kenya's Parliament agreed in October to form a space agency analogous to the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The decision comes on the heels of a report co-authored by Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Professor Calestous Juma which articulated in detail the potential benefits of establishing a Kenyan space program and the political framework necessary to make it a reality.

"Kenya is entering a very fruitful stage in its economic and scientific development," Juma said, "and a space program will help the nation fulfill its potential as a leader on the African continent."

In a 2011 article titled "Establishing a space sector for sustainable development in Kenya," published in the International Journal of Technology and Globalization, Juma and co-author Peter M.B. Waswa argued that space-based technology would improve the nation's food security; enhance public health and education programs; augment environmental management and infrastructure development; and update the nation's atmospheric and oceanic monitoring as well as its natural resources management programs.

"By inaugurating a space sector, Kenya will embrace a plethora of opportunities that include job creation, scientific research stimulation, high-tech innovation promotion, industrialization advancement, promoting a sense of national pride and confidence among its citizens," the authors concluded.

Juma also played a key role in bringing together government officials, scientists and donors at a conference held at the Kennedy School in May 2009. It was during those meetings, Juma said, when the idea to formulate a science program in Kenya really began taking shape. Wilbur Ottichilo, a Member of Parliament (MP) in Kenya who delivered the keynote address at the conference, was the one who later introduced the motion in the Kenyan Parliament.

Kenya's Higher Education, Science and Technology Assistant Minister Asman Kamama recently indicated that he supports the science program, and the government plans to fast track funding to help hasten its development.

Calestous Juma is professor of the practice of international development at HKS and director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project. He has been a member of several geographic information and mapping committees of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development
Director, Science, Technology, Globalization

"Kenya is entering a very fruitful stage in its economic and scientific development," said Juma.


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