Space Positioning and Navigation in Africa

The development of satellite navigation in Africa is an overarching objective of African Union Space and Policy Strategy and the AIM Strategy 2050 for seas and oceans adopted in 2016 by the 26th Africa Union Summit and is embedded in Agenda 2063 Flagship Programmes. 

There is a joint EU Africa programme to Support EGNOS in Africa, and accelerate the adoption and development in Africa of Satellite Positioning and Navigation Services, in particular, the Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) based on the European EGNOS and Galileo programmes. 

A workshop between the African Union Commission and EGNOS Africa Joint Programme Office (JPO) was held in Accra from 22 to 23 February 2021, about  “Space Positioning and Navigation & Timing Solutions: challenges and opportunities in Western and Central Africa”. 

This was the first of African Union regional series of high- level Awareness Workshops encompassing all Economic Sectors which may benefit from the Space Positioning, Navigation and Timings (PNT) technologies, including Aviation, maritime, surveying, road, and railway transport sectors among others.  More analysis from Space in Africa

Space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems are currently used in a wide variety of applications. Their economic benefits have been growing year by year with the introduction of new applications. 

Satellite navigation uses satellites as reference points to calculate positions of objects that are accurate to within a metre. With advanced techniques and augmentations, it can even provides measurements that are accurate to a centimetre. 

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) allows users with compatible receiver devices to determine their position, velocity and local time by processing signals from satellites in point positions within space. The navigation and positioning receivers have been miniaturised, are becoming economical, making the technology accessible to everyone. They are currently built into cars, boats, planes, construction equipment and even laptops. 

GNSS is now the main element of the international air traffic management system, providing worldwide navigation coverage to support all phases of flight. Flying not only becomes safer, but also more efficient by reducing the delay, diversion and cancellation of flights. These interventions also assist in reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the aviation sector.

GNSS is also being used for the surveillance and monitoring of illegal shipping activities, such as unlawful fishing, oil spills and the ensuing environmental damage. Used together with remote sensing imagery, accurate maps of the ocean colour, temperature, currents, salinity and wind direction have been produced. Such rich information is vital for protecting and extracting economic value from Africa’s economic exclusion zones.

Many automotive navigation and positioning applications fit in the category of intelligent transportation systems. Such systems are intended to improve traveller safety, improve travel efficiency by reducing congestion, save energy through the reduction of fuel requirements, and lessen the environmental impact of travel. Automobile navigation applications also help drivers make the most efficient routing decisions. This technology is also useful for fleet vehicle management and the tracking of valuable assets, especially across national borders.  

Navigation and positioning provided by the COSPAS-SARSAT System, is the main element for search and rescue.