IOA Position Papers

Africa’s space race is a serious pursuit

Analysis in brief | Africa’s most advanced economies have invested in space programmes, from satellite launches to full-fledged agencies dedicated to putting Africans into orbit.

The building of an Ethiopian observatory assists in the country’s aim to put a state-of-the-art satellite into orbit as part of its plans to improve communications. Image courtesy: Getty Images. Available at:

Key points:

  • Nigeria and South Africa have been operating space agencies, and Egypt and Ethiopia have announced their own space programmes
  • Algeria and Morocco have also launched satellites for military and civilian purposes with assistance from China, the European Union and Russia
  • Some satellite applications can now be done by drones, requiring cash-strapped African nations to invest cautiously in ever-evolving space technology

Space exploration is seen as a way for Africa to advance its communications agenda, via locally built satellites boosted by homemade rockets from African launching complexes. Space technology has become more universal, evolving from its Cold War origins where the US and Russia vied for strategic advantages and prestige with their space programmes. As part of goodwill programmes, Africans have ridden into space, courtesy of the US and Russia, and African scientists and technicians have trained overseas in space applications. Some mechanical components, used by the East and the West, have been assembled in South Africa and other African states, domesticating this technology and laying the groundwork for Africa’s own space programmes. The effort has been costly and at times cost-inefficient, as the learning curve ascends like the arc of a rocket’s trajectory.

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The digital divide in South Africa’s higher education sector: why public internet access is important in the context of tertiary education

Analysis in brief | Information and communication technology integration into South African higher education teaching makes internet access crucial for students. Government has made progress in pioneering public internet access initiatives, but more must be done to ensure their sustainability.

Source: General Household Survey of Statistics South Africa, 2015. Graphic designed by IOA.


Key points:

  • With higher education institutions integrating ICTs as a means for teaching and sharing of educational resources, internet access is vital for student success. Without it, they face exclusion from opportunities for learning, research and employment.
  • South Africa’s high data costs mean free public internet access must be made a priority.
  • Government needs to engage in innovative and sustainable partnerships, if universal internet access is to be achieved for all South Africans.

The face of higher education in South Africa has changed radically. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have expanded access to information across a myriad of geographic areas. Institutions are investing heavily in ICTs, increasing reliance on online portals for access to vital study information and ‘open’ educational resources. This facilitates ‘’distance learning’’, remotely enabling students to access course material and assignments and allowing students to work during the day and virtually “attend’’ classes afterwards. Internet-based learning also fills a clear need for students in remote areas, providing a platform for student-lecturer interface in spite of geographic limitations. Internships, graduate schemes and scholarship notifications can be posted on educational sites, thus extending access to post-university opportunities across a wider audience.

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Distance learning, a solution to the global health workforce crisis

 Analysis in Brief | The global health workforce is in a skills shortage crisis. Distance learning, as applied to clinical disciplines, can upgrade and expand the existing workforce without causing an acute human resource deficit.

African countries have evidently more inhabitants per doctor in comparison to the rest of the world, highlighting the extent of the health crisis on the continent. Image courtesy: Doctors of the World. Available at:

Key Points:

  • The global population is expanding, but skilled healthcare workers are not being produced at a sufficient rate to meet the needs
  • Technological improvements have rendered the classroom superfluous to knowledge sharing, demonstrating a need for medical schools to commit to distance learning formats
  • Distance learning offers financial and competence-based training advantages over the current format and can be linked with sustainable development goals (SDG)

In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released their follow up report A Universal Truth: No Health Without a Workforce to the 2000 and 2006 conference reports on the human resources in healthcare. Detailed in their report was that, as of 2010, there were 9.2 million doctors and 17 million nurses globally. The WHO estimated that, in 2014, there would be a 7.2 million deficit in skilled healthcare workers globally, which would increase to 12.9 million by 2035. How can 26.2 million doctors and nurses effectively execute their mandate of looking after 7.5 billion people?

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Africa’s Regional Economic Communities: The pieces assembling Africa’s economic and security mosaic

Analysis in brief | Not just for trade, Africa’s economic communities have restored order to countries in conflict and addressed social issues from education to health, while unifying regions through common transportation and commerce policies. However, as their scores on In On Africa’s ACBR 2017 index shows, not all regional blocs are equal performers.

Key points: 

  • Determining the economic and military power of any regional bloc is the strength of key constituent nations
  • While primarily dedicated to the economic growth and security of member states, Africa’s REC member states commit to protocols on social advancement from education to gender equality
  • Eventually, all regional bodies will be incorporated into the African Economic Community, which is already established and with which RECs have treaty relations

A review of ACBR 2017 findings draws conclusions not only on individual country performances but also on how the trade blocs, or regional economic communities (RECs), of Africa’s five regions are performing, Central, East, North, Southern and West. Each region has its own characteristics, attributes, accomplishments and challenges. Similarly, RECs have unique attributes. The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is devoted to one agenda: dividing the profits of customs duties among member states of goods imported into the region. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) consists of all SACU members and other regional countries and has a much broader political and social development agenda, similar to the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). North Africa is managing its economic growth and security problems without a strong regional organisation guiding their efforts. Central Africa’s under-development and political instability is not mitigated by its body of regional integration, the Central African Monetary Community (CEMAC). While SADC is progressing with economic initiatives and has a strong military component, SADC was West Africa’s regional body that most recently made practical application of its regional military force in the bloodless removal of The Gambia’s dictator, Yahya Jammeh.

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How can graduates better their chances of employment in the South African job market?

Analysis in Brief | Youth unemployment affects South Africa’s economic and social development. Young people need to be innovative in finding employment opportunities. Community service is an effective means to providing relevant workplace experience and improving personal skills to better chances of gaining relevant employment.

The data was taken from a survey of 1425 respondents. The project was undertaken by IOA and Columinate in preparation for Voices Unite, soon to be Southern Africa’s largest youth-driven study. Graphic designed by: IOA

Key points:

  • In 2016, youth unemployment in South Africa stood at 51%, which ranks 4th globally
  • Gaining work experience in a competitive job market is difficult for young people who lack experience and practical skills
  • Community work offers a way for graduates and students to improve their chances of permanent employment, while assisting their community in a positive way

In On Africa (IOA) is currently working to expedite and encourage positive changes in South Africa’s youth sector by focusing on youth unemployment with several companies, organisations and individuals. Voices Unite is IOA’s upcoming initiative that seeks to offer South Africa’s youth a platform to voice their concerns, ideas and experiences and to utilise those insights in informing the way forward. As a preface to this initiative, a pilot study, with more than 1,400 respondents across South Africa, was implemented by IOA and Columinate, a research partner. In this pilot study, respondents were asked to indicate what issues/topics were constantly on their mind: first was crime; second, corruption; and the third important issue to them was unemployment (selected by 65% of youth respondents).

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