Cairo government renews EgSA top brass to strengthen relations with NASA and equip itself with new technological capabilities

President El-Sisi relies on space technology to boost Egypt's economy

PHOTO/Reuters - President El-Sisi wants to strengthen Egypt's space sector to accelerate the nation's economic development and improve national security

Egypt's President, Marshal Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, has just completed his official visit to the Emirate of Qatar. It is the first time El Rais has set foot in the wealthy Gulf country since he took power in June 2014, after diplomatic relations between the two nations were restored in January 2021.
The trip to Doha, the capital of Qatar, comes after El-Sisi made major changes to the ministerial cabinet headed since June 2018 by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbuly.


The mid-August reshuffle of the government team aims to curb the unstoppable rise in food and commodity prices, the loss of value against the US dollar of the Egyptian currency - the Egyptian pound, equivalent to 5 euro cents - and to tackle inflation that is already over 13%.
The Rais has sought in Qatar the destination of the 5 billion dollars in investments that the Gulf country's leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, expressed his willingness to invest in support of Egypt's economy during his visit to Cairo in June, to help clean up the country's public accounts. 
To accelerate the country's economic development and ensure national security, one of the sectors that President El-Sisi wants to strengthen is the space industry. Thus, just days after the changes in the ministerial team, the first step in this direction was to appoint Professor Sherif Mohamed Sedky as the new executive director of the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA).

A space city under construction

In political and scientific circles in the Egyptian capital, it is understood that the appointment of the scientist who now heads EgSA is an expression of the Rais' desire to strengthen relations with the Biden administration, NASA and the US space industry. This is not to mention the pursuit of ambitious new projects that will give Egyptian society a sense of national pride.
Until his appointment, Professor Sherif Sedky was the Rector of the American University in Cairo, the country's most prestigious private higher education institution. His teaching record began in 1999 as a professor of engineering at Cairo University and continued as a researcher and visiting professor at Stanford University and the Catholic University of Leuven.


In 2003, he launched the Centre for Design and Fabrication of Micro Electromechanical Systems at the American University in Cairo, which later appointed him associate dean for Graduate Studies and Scientific Research Affairs. He has also served as director of the Yusef Jameel Center for Science and Technology.
The guidelines he has been given are to "enhance as much as possible" the national space fabric and the important work inherited from his predecessor, Professor Mohamed El-Qousi, the first head of EgSA. The main project he is handing over to his successor is the so-called Egypt Space City, a 5,000-square-metre mega-complex being built on the outskirts of Cairo, with 23 buildings.
It will house the Egyptian Space Academy, a research centre, museum and library, a satellite tracking and control centre and several buildings for the design, development, manufacture and integration of space platforms. Although it will not be completed until at least 2026, it is scheduled to open by the end of this year, with half a dozen buildings completed, one of which will house the headquarters of the African Space Agency. 

Agreements with agencies from a wide range of countries 

With major joint projects with agencies in China, Russia, France, South Africa and even Ukraine, Egypt's rapprochement with the United States in space has been ongoing since the middle of the last decade. One of the first steps was an agreement between EgSA and NASA to train Egyptian engineers in the process of manufacturing small spacecraft.
Another materialised on 21 January 2020, when Egypt's main satellite communications operator, NileSat, signed a launch contract with the US company SpaceX to put NileSat 301 into orbit. The 3.9-tonne, 32 Ku-band and six Ka-band transponders were launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 6 June by a Falcon 9 rocket. 


The new EgSA director also has to bring to fruition the pan-African project called African Development Satellite Initiative (AfDev-Sat), which the Egyptian agency has been leading since 2021. It is a satellite technology training programme involving Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and Sudan. It aims to create a multinational cooperation framework capable of generating the necessary capacities so that African countries can build their own small satellites and do not have to depend on third countries
Another initiative in which EgSA is the main beneficiary - in collaboration with the Kenyan and Ugandan space agencies - is Bartolomeo, a programme promoted by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), whose director is the Italian Simonetta Di Pippo, to enable access to space for developing nations.
Bartolomeo wants engineers from the three African agencies to develop a camera system on board the International Space Station, whose images should help detect adverse weather conditions and phenomena in an attempt to mitigate food insecurity in agriculture in certain regions of Africa.


Two other activities have recently been brought to light by EgSA. One is in collaboration with the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology. It is called the Egyptian Space Startup Centre, which is part of the National Programme for Launching Technology Incubators (INTILAC) of the Academy of Science and Technology. The other is a three-month programme aimed at engineers and final-year students to introduce them to the field of space technologies.