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Nigeria missing in Africa’s race to astronomy, Ghana, SA on lead with radio telescopes

New report released by the Scientific America has shown that only Ghana and South Africa have achieved the feat of launching into the world of astronomy.

Ghana has already completed the delivery of a functional radio telescope on the continent after South Africa.

The report also noted that radio telescope is up and running, the Ghana telescope could be incorporated into the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network — a cluster of far-apart radio telescopes that together act as one large instrument.

According to the report, “Astronomers also want to use it in a separate African VLBI Network (AVN). For that, plans are under way to convert telecommunications dishes in Zambia, Madagascar and Kenya by mid-2019. The arrival of undersea cables around Africa’s coast in the past decade has rendered these dishes obsolete for their original purpose. New telescopes could also be built in four other African nations by mid-2022,” it added.

  1. L. Venkatasubramani, the project manager said “It’s a moment of pride and joy that we have reached this far”.

Whereas there is no such plan by the Nigerian government or the myriad of ICT agencies, the report revealed that Ghana is part of the large Square Kilometre Area (SKA) project. Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia are partnering with South Africa to host the SKA.

Further investigations on the state of the Nigerian Satellite deals with China showed that not much had been done and data generation from the satellites is not effective.

Business Hilights recalls that among the gimmicks used by previous administration to buy over the supports of Nigerians to invest on the Chinese satellite was that it will help in tracking Boko Haram insurgency and deepening telecoms services, but they have all come to become farce after all.

Already, several ICT experts have advised the federal government to scrape NigCom Sat or merged it with a related agency to avoid abuse of tax payers money.

Ghana achieved the feat as its engineers worked to convert an old telecommunications dish into a functioning radio telescope. The conversion was largely funded by South Africa, whose African Renaissance and International Co-Operation Fund and department of science and technology have contributed $9 million to the project.

Industry experts say defunct NITEL has even a better ‘old telecommunications dish’ that can be converted as was done in Ghana.

The report disclosed further that the only country in Africa with an ongoing project to build a radio telescope is South Africa. The MeerKAT being built in South Africa, is expected to be completed in 2020 and it is the world’s largest radio telescope. When completed, it will connect 3,000 separate radio dishes, each about 50 feet (15 metres) wide.

The telescope in Ghana, is in Kuntunse near Accra. The report says it is the first of an array of such instruments expected to be built across Africa over the next five years in efforts geared towards developing skills of African astronomers in the long-term.

“It made its first observations this year and will be formally opened later in 2017,” the report added.