Good morning. Thank you to Executive Secretary Chirag Parikh and the U.S. National Space Council for inviting me to speak today. President Biya, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer Francis Ngabo, Administrator Nelson… distinguished guests and colleagues … it’s wonderful to be here with all of you as we mark the first day of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit.
We’re here to talk about U.S.-Africa cooperation in outer space, but I want to start closer to home. Back in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, U.S. disaster response coordinators urgently needed satellite imagery to understand the scale of the damage. The first images to arrive that day were not from a U.S. government satellite—they came from NigeriaSat-1, which as the name suggests was Nigerian-owned—and they showed the full extent of flooding in New Orleans and all along the Louisiana coastline.
As we enter this new era in space development, it’s important to remember the tangible benefits that space partnership can deliver for our citizens… and that African nations are not just recipients of those benefits, but active participants and partners in the exploration and use of space. As we focus this week on further strengthening the 21st century U.S.-Africa partnership, space can and will play a key role… with implications for our scientific, environmental, and economic cooperation.
For all those reasons and more, today is a celebratory occasion. We are so delighted to welcome Nigeria and Rwanda as the first two African nations to sign the Artemis Accords.
The 23 Artemis Accords signatories represent a diverse set of nations with a wide range of space capabilities and interests. The Accords support our activities in NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, among other objectives. Through the Artemis program, the United States is building the broadest and most diverse international human space effort in human history.
As we expand our cooperation and capabilities in outer space, we must commit to doing so responsibly. That’s why the Artemis Accords focus on peaceful space exploration. It’s also why Vice President Harris announced in April the United States’ commitment NOT to conduct direct-ascent, anti-satellite missile tests. These tests jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space by damaging the space environment, and they endanger the use of space by all nations. We appreciate the strong support of the African Group nations in the UN General Assembly for the U.S.-sponsored resolution which underscores this commitment.
When we commit to safe, peaceful, and sustainable exploration and use of space, we can unlock its limitless potential.
Today, you’ll hear about how our collective efforts in outer space can help combat climate change and advance progress toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
You’ll also hear more about space-based Earth observation technology, which deepens our understanding of our home planet. For example, in the United States space-based observations help wildfire-prone regions contain damage, saving lives and minimizing economic losses. Just last month, Uganda and Zimbabwe launched their first Earth observation satellites, which will perform analyses of water quality, land use cover, and soil fertility. We look forward to partnering with African nations on future applications for space-based Earth-observation.
And of course, space cooperation has huge economic potential as well. Last year, the Space Foundation valued the space economy at $469 billion, most of which was generated by the commercial sector. The rapid expansion of the commercial space industry has created new opportunities for public-private partnerships that support economic growth and advance space science. It seems like hardly a week passes by without a new launch or a new landmark achievement. I have no doubt that African countries will be major contributors to those efforts in the years ahead.
Today, Nigeria and Rwanda are in the spotlight, and we are very excited to welcome them to the Artemis Accords. We hope to see more African nations here at the signing table soon, and we welcome all who wish to join our efforts to develop a safe, peaceful, and sustainable outer space. Because at their core, our efforts in outer space serve to improve the lives of people in the United States, on the African continent, and indeed throughout the world.
Thanks again for joining us today.