Innovate Africa

Science Africa

From satellites to lasers – African innovators are using science and technology to advance their industries.

With a digital and mobile revolution already in full force across the African continent, satellites and who is in control of them are becoming increasingly important.

South Africans are leading the way with their National Space Agency (SANSA) operations in Hartebeesthoek, Gauteng.  With an antennae farm of over 22 antennae and orbcomms, as well as a mission control centre and operations room tracking and downloading satellite data, the facility is designed to grow. SANSA shares vital information with many countries on the continent about everything from disaster warnings to water pollution problems. Africa is committed to space science as a vital resource for the digital development of the continent.

Matloop is a polyvalent wireless communicatio, or PWC, system. This is a system that allows the simultaneous provisioning of telephony, internet and video services from a satellite broadband connection without using any landline cable such as fiber optics. Dr Victor Agbegnenou wants to keep his invention in the hands of Africa and believes it should be delivered to the continent without the intervention of large Western technology companies.

His PWC system is being tested as a way to connect medical laboratories throughout the continent. Agbegnenou is Togolese but based in Paris, where he has gathered a large community of scientists from the diaspora who are all committed to finding ways of implementing the PWC technology to solve a number of African problems.

Dr Patience Mthuzi is Africa’s only doctor of biophotonics. Her research entails using light to manipulate cells. The aim is to create ground-breaking diagnostics tools for serious diseases. She is also working on ways to deliver drugs directly to cells to treat life-threatening diseases.

Dr Sandile Ngcobo has found a way of controlling the shape of the light coming out of a laser – something previously thought to be impossible. With his discovery, laser beams can be digitally controlled from inside the laser device itself. His work is talked about as a “disruptive innovation”, something which turns previous scientific ideas upside down. Scientists liken his invention to the actual discovery of the laser 50 years ago. Now that it is possible to manipulate the light in this way, scientists believe that applications will be found in areas like medicine and manufacturing.


Innovate Africa can be seen on Al Jazeera English at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230; Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630; Saturday: 0530.