Over P100m for Masisi’s Space Satellite Initiative?

Botswana to join Uganda and Zimbabwe among 13 African countries with space satellites


The government is expected to spend more than P100 million on an ambitious space satellite programme that is the brainchild of President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

The programme came to light in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday this week when the President announced that Botswana will launch its own satellite into space in 2023.

Titled Botswana Satellite, or BotSat-1 for short, the programme is being developed in partnership with Cape Town University of Science and Technology.

President Masisi told the nation from Parliament that Botswana will become one of the few African countries to have their own satellites in space.

The benefits of the programme will include water resource management, industrial development, environmental management, land management, food security, and sustainable agriculture, among others.

But President Masisi made no mention of the cost of the programme. Nevertheless, The Botswana Gazette is informed that the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology is likely spend between P120 and P200 million on the implementation of the programme.

NASA portal
Research from a portal of the National Space Agency (NASA) of the United States shows that launching a single satellite into space can cost anywhere between $10 million and $400 million, depending on the type of vehicle used.

Over $10 million was invested in the development and launch of the Zimbabwean satellite, named ZimSat-1. The satellite was launched on November 7 this year.

News of the Botswana space programme has elicited a wide range of divided views. Member of Parliament for Maun West, Dumelang Saleshando, believes the government has lost sight of its priorities.

“African leaders are known to compete among themselves,” he said. “They are very notorious for large, unnecessary spending. This appears to be an area of competition for them to see who can be the first to have a space satellite.

“Why launch a space programme when people want better healthcare, quality education and better jobs than Ipelegeng? I personally hope that it does not take off because clearly it seems to be a presidential pet ambition. We have really regressed as a nation in terms of bread-and-butter issues.”

“Step in the right direction”
The MP for Molepolole North, Oabile Regoeng, said the space satellite is a step in the right direction but will not be used to its fullest potential because of the county’s small population. “It is a step in the right direction since almost everything is now going digital,” he said.

“But given that we have a small population, its usage is going to be very low. I do also believe that it came too soon and that it is going to take some time before we reap returns from the investment. It is mostly going to be an instrument up there not optimally used.”