MINISTER of Science and Technology Felix Mutati has expressed displeasure at the delay to launch the satellite despite having the necessary expertise.

And Mutati says the new dawn government’s ambition is to ensure that Zambia becomes the second SADC nation to launch a satellite.

Mutati was speaking when he toured the Ground Receiving Station under the National Remote Sensing Centre.

National Remote Sensing Centre director Dr Faustin Banda told Mutati that most of the infrastructure works at the facility, which would house the receivers for the satellite, had been completed.

“It has all been wired up, it is just the furniture that is remaining. Down the other side is the residential facility which houses about 10 houses for those that may need to do research. Also the ground receiving station will be operating 24/7 so the people that will be based here in shifts will be keeping up in the residences out there. So what is remaining essentially is the hardware, computers, software and the actual antenna. But may I say this even before we launch the satellite with the dish and the equipment being available we should be able to receive satellite imaging,” Dr Banda said.

But in response, the Technology and Science Minister expressed dismay at the delay to launch the satellite, saying the new dawn administration would force people to finalise the project if it had to.

“We have been on this journey from 2016, just waffling and passing the buck and yet the brainpower that exists in this space is huge. PHDs plus plus and other things that we have got and yet from 2016 the competence that we have got does not actually show and yet you have everything that it takes. The only advantage we have is that whether you like it or not we will force you to do it now. Otherwise you will not be part of us we will let you go receive FISP and become a farmer of your own satellite so that you can be a king on your own little farm. Don’t disrupt the journey to land the satellite in two years,” Mutati said.

Mutati said the satellite would transform the nation.

“Do not see it as a satellite; it is a transformation of the nation. Zambia, our ambition should be that we will be the second country in the SADC region to launch a satellite and therefore, creating a market as we are well positioned with eight neighbours who will be able to access our satellite and therefore make it more commercial. So there is a legacy ba director and the rest of the team that you have got to give to the people of Zambia, [which] is to make this thing happen. Let us avoid the Zambian syndrome of saying ‘what happened to me I did that’. Let’s be on one side of the table for the people of Zambia for once,” he said.

Mutati said the satellite would be key in achieving a digital economy and would also help in planning a number of issues including climate change, agriculture, floods and other disasters.

“We also do know that there is a connection by what was delivered by the President when he opened Parliament that we need to have a digital economy. Now the basis of a digital economy is to start with a knowledge economy and the knowledge economy can only be driven and supported by space technology, by satellite. It is the knowledge economy that is going to drive your innovation, your technology. It is the knowledge economy that will drive your industrial competitiveness, particularly in the future. If you don’t do that, you will always be lagging behind. Through the satellite, you can be able to plan a number of issues including climate change, including agriculture, including getting the nation ready for flooding and any other disasters. And as we saw at remote sensing, even planning settlements can be facilitated; can be made a lot easier. Even the health sector will be better positioned, so the significance of launching a satellite cannot be under emphasized that is why we have said it is a bold decision because it has dividends in the future,” he said.

Mutati said Zambia should not shy away from learning from those that have launched satellites before.

“Let us not be shy to learn from those that have delivered it before. Let us collaborate with them because we can only improve on what they have done before. Let us learn from them, how did they structure their financing mechanisms in order to launch? How did they assemble the human competencies, the infrastructure competencies, that is what we call collaboration and expertise. Let us not reinvent the will. It will take us much longer if we sit in a closed door and persuade ourselves that we know. Yes we do, everybody knows something but we are who we are because we have not translated what we know into practical outputs. So we need to deal with this gap between what we know and delivering practical outputs. That is where collaboration and cooperation actually come in. So international collaboration partnerships is a key pillar in this journey,” said Mutati.

“And our strategy is based on three pillars. The first pillar is the human capital. You are already collaborating with experts from the University of Zambia, Electronic experts, Physicists and other experts. And we wanted to expand that to also tap into the diaspora. We have Zambians that have been part and parcel of launching rockets under NASA, that knowledge we must be able to tap in. There is a young man, I think he is Dr Lungu who is an expert and works for NASA and his daily job is space. Those are the people that we want to reach out to in the diaspora. You also recall our professor Chirwa who was able to crack a problem that was faced by NASA, that is the power of the diaspora. So we need to collaborate, identifying the key experts that are going to be married to the local experts to be able to create sustainable solutions.”