In 2018, the Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Authority’s (RURA) Director General, Patrick Nyirishema, confirmed plans to launch the country’ inaugural satellite in 2019.
Rwanda has collaborated with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on the project.
On Wednesday, 27 February, OneWeb, a UK based global communications company, sent its first six initial satellites into low-earth orbit, one of which is expected to provide broadband internet to remote schools in Rwanda.
According to The Times, Billionare Richard Branson of Virgin Group, top managers of Soft Bank of Japan, Airbus leaders, and other several dignitaries, including French ministers were in presence to witness the launch of OneWeb’s initial satellites.
The rocket that had the six satellites was launched at exactly 23:38 at the Atlantic coast of the French Guiana space centre, a space port mostly used by the European Union.
Groupe Scolaire St Pierre Nkombo, located on Nkombo Island in the middle of Lake Kivu, will be the first beneficiary of the broadband connectivity that one of the satellites, nicknamed Icyerekezo, will provide. Like many other schools in rural areas where it’s hard to extend standard network fibre, students at St. Pierre Nkombo previously had no to access to internet, making it impossible for them to fully utilise the available ICT tools that the government rolled out to facilitate learning.
#Rwanda and @OneWeb partner to launch #Icyerekezo satellite (named by students from Nkombo Island), to connect schools in remote areas to the internet. Please watch the launch live @rbarwanda on Wednesday 27/02/2019, at 23:37. #InternetForSchools pic.twitter.com/4SnQvMKncD
— MINICT | Rwanda (@RwandaICT) February 26, 2019
The launch of the satellite is sure to heighten the country’s technological prestige. There are several other African countries considering the development of smallsat programmes.
The use of technology transfer initiatives such as the one between Rwanda and Japan, enable countries to develop their own, indigenous satellite manufacturing capabilities. Currently, there are five Rwandan engineers working on the project at the University of Tokyo where they have helped with the design and manufacture of the satellite.
Rwanda will be joining the club of other African countries that have successfully orbited satellites including, Algeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria.