"The African space technology industry is one of the fastest-growing markets globally.

With just under ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the role that the space technology sector can play in achieving most, if not all, of the goals should be explored. Through cost-effective and up-to-date data and insights, this represents a massive opportunity for vibrant and innovative entrepreneurs to contribute towards growing the space industry.

The African space technology industry is one of the fastest-growing markets globally, representing a $7 billion opportunity; however, only 0.5% of investments in space technology globally go toward African companies indicating that this area is significantly underexploited in terms of investment.

 The 2020 Space-Tech Innovation Challenge aimed to empower African innovators who are using geospatial intelligence to serve African industries such as agriculture, insurance, retail, and sustainability and conservation thereby highlighting the investment opportunity that exists in the African space technology industry.

About the winners

The open innovation challenge was a resounding success, which began with a call inviting innovators and entrepreneurs to submit novel business ideas in the space industry. Thereafter 26 submissions from South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Russia were shortlisted to proceed to the business training and development phase. The submissions were evaluated and narrowed down further to 14 finalists who had the opportunity to pitch their businesses and innovative solutions to a panel of judges at a virtual pitching den event. From the event, four start-ups were selected as winners of the 2020 challenge and received prizes made up of data packages, a four month online incubation and virtual mentorship.

  • First place: was a geospatial data science company that improves the accuracy of borehole drilling in remote and vulnerable regions.
  • Second place: developed a cloud-based digitisation and farm management platform for small farmers to promote precision agriculture solutions.
  • Third place: was shared between a start-up that created a post-harvest platform using remote sensing technology to forecast supply and consumer demand, and an agri-business focused geographic information systems mapping provider. 

The space-tech sector is inherently quite technical and business development training for entrepreneurs in the sector was a key takeaway from the challenge in order to enable those in the space to fully grasp and develop their business models and understand how their solutions fit into the market.  

The space-tech challenge has been instrumental in both creating an awareness of the use of earth observation data as a vehicle to solve constraints experienced in the continent and growing the space industry ecosystem.

Additional work is required to harness the capabilities of space-tech in Africa. Thus, for the upcoming challenge, there will be a focus on promoting new entrants and entrepreneurs across the industry value chain, strengthening Africa’s geospatial readiness. 

To grow the space-tech industry in Africa, collaboration is required and facilitating the industry players to collaborate is key to strengthening the ecosystem. The 2021 Space-Tech Challenge will continue to shine the light on the impact space-tech can have on Africa’s future and how African innovators can be the catalyst for this. 


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