Africa Earth Observation Challenge supported by African governmental agencies, global space organisations, and private sector

The Africa Earth Observation (AEO) Challenge, which is currently calling for entries from African start-ups and entrepreneurs who are developing novel applications of space-based technologies, has attracted prominent African and global partners. This includes African governmental agencies, global space-sector organisations, space-focused non-profits and private sector corporations.

From modest beginnings as a single-country competition, the AEO Challenge has developed into a continent-wide, open challenge for downstream space-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Imraan Salooljee, an executive at RIIS which is the coordinating partner of the challenge, says that this broad reach has been made possible due to the support and commitment of major African and international players in the space sector. “This year we have a total of 18 partner organisations providing their support. This illustrates the deepening interest in earth observation as a tool for spurring Africa’s development agenda,” says Imraan.

Partners include:

  1. South African National Space Agency, a national agency to promote the use of space and strengthen cooperation in space-related activities while fostering research in space science.
  2. Kenya Space Agency, a national agency mandated to promote, coordinate and regulate Kenyan space related activities
  3. Rwanda Space Agency, a national agency mandated to regulate and coordinate all Rwandan space activities.
  4. RIIS, an advisory firm advising global and African clients, and the coordinating partner of the African Earth Observation Challenge.
  5. Digital Earth Africa, a platform and service provider of insights using Earth observations data to support sustainable development. 
  6. ESRI, the global market leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping.
  7. AWS, providers of reliable, scalable, and inexpensive cloud computing services.
  8. Maxar, a leading global space technology and intelligence company.
  9. RCMRD, a provider of open earth observation datasets.
  10. Von Seidels, a dedicated intellectual property law firm specialising in protecting and enforcing IP rights in South Africa and Africa.
  11. ZA Space, an industry body supporting the growth of the aerospace private sector.
  12. Tech Tribe Accelerator, a leading African online accelerator and virtual mentorship platform.
  13. SA Innovation Summit, the largest start-up event in Africa.
  14. Anza Capital, an early-stage venture fund that invests into scalable tech-driven start-ups in Africa.
  15. GenSpace, a global ecosystem platform to help stimulate the creation of start-ups and scale-ups focused on entrepreneurial opportunities in space.
  16. Leo Sky Africa, a Kenyan consulting and events company dedicated to improving the lives of Africans, by exposure and utilisation of space as a natural resource.
  17. Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA), a Kenyan nation agency mandated to develop and manage the National Innovation System.
  18. Zindi, a platform that hosts the largest community of African data scientists, working to solve the world’s most pressing challenges using machine learning and AI.

For those entrepreneurs and start-ups interested in taking part in the Challenge, they must be able to demonstrate a clear application of earth observation data in their project or solution. Projects in the seed stage, early development or investor ready are welcomed, but must be able to show a system prototype demonstration in the operational environment (technology readiness level 7) or have a system that is complete and qualified (technology readiness level 8).

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to take part in a week-long business training programme, before going on to present their business plans at a live pitching event to a multidisciplinary panel of judges, which will be held in Kenya later this year.

For the winners, the gains are great for their projects, with valuable data services and business incubation ad mentorship available. Additionally, there is USD 10 000 in total prizes for finalists. Prizes include:

  • 3 months’ access to Maxar Imagery Portal Securewatch worth up to $ 20 000
  • Up to $ 10 000 worth of Amazon Web Services Activate credits
  • 4-month online incubation and virtual mentorship from GEN Space, DEA, and AWS worth $ 24 000
  • Participation, networking and gaining exposure at Kenya Innovation Week in Nairobi (December 2022)
  • Feature in interviews and editorials via Challenge Media Partners
  • Technical support from leading EOD specialising organisations (including SANSA, RSA, KSA, Maxar, AWS, and DEA)
  • Intellectual property services and support to the value of $3000
  • Various packages of subscriptions to ArcGIS, user conference pass and ESRI Imagery Summit

The deadline for submissions is Monday, 19 September 2022.

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