Ethiopia has launched its first satellite.
The satellite was launched into space on Friday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center space station in China. Ethiopian and Chinese officials and scientists, however, watched a live broadcast of the Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite launch at the Entoto Observatory and Research Center, north of the East African country's capital, Addis Ababa.
africanews.space says the satellite will provide data for Ethiopian authorities and research institutions to monitor the environment and study weather patterns for better agricultural planning, early warning for drought, mining activities and forestry management.
The satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the prime contractor, in collaboration with 21 Ethiopian scientists, trained on the project as part of the technology-transfer agreement between Beijing and the Ethiopian Space Science Technology Institute (ESSTI).
"This will be a foundation for our historic journey to prosperity," deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen said in a speech at the event. "The technology is an important even if it's delayed."
The flight was earlier scheduled for December 17 but was postponed for three days due to unfavourable weather. Solomon Belay, the director general of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, told Reuters that China covered most of the costs of building the satellite.
The Chinese government reportedly spent $8 million for the design, construction and in-orbit delivery of the satellite including the cost of setting up the ground station in Ethiopia. An additional $6 million was spent on the satellite and training Ethiopian engineers while the Ethiopian government provided $2 million to the project.
The data from the satellite will help Ethiopia to monitor the country's resources and improve its responses. According to africanews.space, the 70kg Chinese Long March 4B rocket (CZ-4B) blasted off into space carrying onboard Ethiopia’s first remote sensing satellite, ETRSS-1, at 03:21 GMT (06:21 EAT) in China.
The launch was Africa's eighth this year - raising to 41 African satellites launched since 1998 when the first satellite was launched by Egypt in 1998. However, none have been launched on African soil.
Ethiopia's minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria told critics who were accusing his government of funding the wrong priorities given the levels of poverty in the country that with the satellite, Ethiopia would ultimately money because it would no longer need to pay for remote-sensing data from foreign satellites.
"After the launch of the ETRSS-1 is done, we will work to be self-sufficient may be at our third or fourth satellite, using our own domestic system," he said.
Paulos Alemayehu from the Ethiopian Space Science Technology Institute (ESSTI) said; "You know, this is a very poor country. Many in the younger generation don't have big hopes of reaching space. But today we are giving this generation hope, helping this generation to think big and have self-esteem."