The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) is leading the first African network of higher education institutions in Planetary and Space Science.
The project titled “Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network” is funded to the tune of 1.4 million euros by the European Commission through the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) under the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme.
The project is led by Dr. Fulvio Franchi in collaboration with Professor Gizaw Mengistu Tsidu, from the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, and Professor Gregory Hillhouse, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
The BIUST team will lead a consortium of Higher Education Institutes from Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and will be assisted by a technical partner from Italy.
Responding to a questionnaire from The Voice, Dr. Franci said the project aims to create a continental network of excellence in the field of Planetary and Space Science. As such it will sponsor the studies and the research activities at Masters and Doctoral levels for 50 African students (including Batswana) who are willing to pursue careers in Planetary and Space Science.
“This mobility project wishes to develop the next generation of African scientists, leaders, and entrepreneurs by improving their access to high-quality STEM education, with particular emphasis on Planetary and Space Science,” he said.
He said the Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network consortium will act as an incubator for new collaborations among African institutions and create an integrated higher education programme for Planetary and Space Sciences at the Master of Science (MSc) and Doctoral (PhD) level.
Dr. Franchi said this project puts BIUST at the centre of a growing process that sees Africa becoming the new horizon for space exploration and satellite science for a growing space labour market.
“The project will be hosted at BIUST by the Department of Earth and Environmental Science. This will attract extremely competitive and skilled international students and develop their research projects boosting the research activities in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and Department of Physics and Astronomy,” he said.
He further stated that through this project there’s a need to create a Centre of Excellence in Planetary and Space Science and Technology at BIUST that will catalyze energy from diverse research groups in the university to deliver cutting edge research and high-end technological products for the market.
Dr. Franchi also believes that this project will directly benefit BIUST and propel Botswana towards the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).
“The over-arching objective of the Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network is to promote the education of young scientists and equip them with the necessary skills to enter the growing market in space science and technology and to play an active role in the large Planetary and Space Science projects within the next 20 years,” he said.
He further highlighted that they’ll focus on the areas of planetary geology, astronomy and astrophysics, remote sensing from space, within the tertiary education system across the continent.