UK-Africa partnerships to boost the continent’s space race ambitions

Alana Kruger, who coordinates the organisation’s space outreach programme in Africa shares insights on a new report: Activities and Findings of a UK-Africa Space Technology Knowledge Exchange Tour.

The report delivered by Innovate UK found that while Africa’s space industry is decades younger than those in the US, UK, Europe, Russia and China, it is nevertheless a world-leader in several areas. However, Africa’s space sector could be boosted into a higher orbit through a strong international partnership network.

Taking its cue from the report, Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa has begun building the UK-South Africa Space Global Innovation Network to help space businesses and organisations in the public and private sector realise the innovation, economic and social benefits that a coordinated and collaborative space sector stands to deliver.

Forging partnerships

The report is derived from learnings gathered during a UK-Africa Space Technology Knowledge Exchange tour which saw space sector experts from South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, and other pan-African organisations visit several UK space industry companies and facilities. This included studies of the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus, Space Park Leicester, and SaxaVord Spaceport, as well as meeting with the Scottish Parliament and European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre, with an emphasis on ecosystem building and opportunities to forge partnerships to tackle common challenges. A key report finding was that although both regions have distinct advantages and differences, there is plenty of scope for mutually beneficial collaboration.


Africa's space sector lifted off in 1999. Led by South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda it is set to grow over the next two years.

Skilled employees


Skilled employees

African economy


African economy

Predicted growth


Predicted growth

*Figures have been rounded down for illustrative purposes. 

By comparison, its UK counterpart, established in the 1950s, today employs over 45,000 people and is worth £16.4bn (about R393bn) according to 2024 UK Department of Business & Trade data.

Expanding markets

Despite its marginally smaller sector, Africa has world-class upstream capabilities thanks to its homegrown skills and expertise, with the capacity to design and manufacture highly technical components. And they exist in markets that are hungry to apply space technologies for communications, data exchange, earth observation, space weather monitoring and space data for air, land and sea navigation, urban planning, spatial development, minerals exploration, agriculture, water management, broadcasting and telecoms, crime prevention, food security, border management, national security and a myriad of other important applications we rely on in our day-to-day lives.

Industry challenges

Africa’s space industry is subject to the same constraints as other sectors, notably the need for capital when economic growth is slow, rising costs through inflation and currency devaluation, and governments have competing demands on the public purse. Space policy, regulations, and the capacity to formulate, coordinate and provide oversight of these are other challenges the industry faces.

The UK’s space industry faced similar challenges and used them to build a robust ecosystem that extends beyond the scientific, academic, and engineering realms, to include policy formulation, investors, finance, risk, insurance, and commercial expertise. The outcome has been a resilient, sustainable, and well-coordinated sector that continues to attract fresh talent, promotes research and development (R&D), and provides innovative space-based solutions.

Strengthening relationships

Africa boasts all the ingredients of a globally competitive space industry, and according to Innovate UK’s report, deeper relations with the UK could help it navigate around many of these challenges. As such, the report recommends the formation of a UK-Africa Space Network. This would establish and strengthen relations between the UK and African space sectors including national space agencies, R&D, manufacturing and commercial sectors.

About Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa

Global Alliance Africa is a six-year project funded by UK International Development through Innovate UK (GCRF) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Global Alliance Africa Logo

Follow us for more project updates

Twitter @IUK_Global

Instagram @WeAreGlobalAlliance


UK-Africa Space Technology Knowledge Exchange Tour Report

This report outlines the design of the knowledge exchange tour, maps the learnings captured, and unpacks the value-add it provided to the stakeholders across each of the participating territories.

Read the report
Alana Kruger

Our Expert

Alana Kruger

Read full profile

Related programmes

Global Innovation Networks

Global Innovation Networks

Global Innovation Networks unite some of the best minds and greatest thinkers from across the UK and globally to find answers to some of the world’s most significant challenges. The Networks will facilitate UK, African and EU networks to deliver collaborative research, innovation and funding solutions that address key global innovation challenges.

Global Alliance Africa

Global Alliance Africa

This Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa 6-year (2019-2025) project funded by UK International Development aims to build new and stronger UK-African partnerships to maximise the creation of inclusive market access, funding and investment opportunities through innovation knowledge transfer between the UK, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.