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World Science Forum: AfAS-IAU-OAD Side event

Title of the side event: Advancing Africa’s Astronomy Agenda

Organised by: African Astronomical Society (AfAS), International Astronomical Union – Office of Astronomy for Development (IAU-OAD)

Date: 06 December 2022                                      

Time: 11:30 to 13:00 CAT/UTC+2:00

Please complete this form to register for in-person or virtual participation: https://forms.gle/XvHxYMT4TkXGAfjs7

If you are attending in-person please also request for an invitation World Science Forum at this link: https://worldscienceforum.org/request_invitation

The African continent has always suffered the effects of a negative global perception – so-called “Afro-pessimism” – not only economically and politically but especially in terms of science and technology. The rapid growth of astronomy in Africa over the past two decades, led by world-class initiatives such as the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), the MeerKAT Radio Telescope, MeerLICHT, the Oukaïmeden observatory, the Entoto observatory, the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array, the Hydrogen Intensity and Real-time Analysis eXperiment, and High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S) have served to change the narrative about what Africa is capable of. In the field of astronomy Africa currently claims its place among international peers in one of the most technically challenging fields imaginable.

In line with the WSF theme of Science for Social Justice, this session will delve into how the science of astronomy is being used not only grow skills and opportunities on the continent but also to stimulate development through all aspects of astronomy. Importantly, the session will address how the opportunities created by astronomy, such as the 2024 International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly (IAU-GA), could potentially change global perspectives about Africa.

The hosts of the session, the African Astronomical Society (AfAS) and the International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development (IAU-OAD), have significant experience and networks across Africa to lead a discussion on how the various initiatives are facilitating the development of astronomy in Africa as well as plans to ensure that Africa becomes one of the leaders in astronomy internationally. The IAU-OAD, a joint project of the IAU and the South African National Research Foundation, aim to further the use of astronomy as a tool for sustainable development globally. In 2019 the AfAS was relaunched (after its establishment in 2011) with renewed funding. AfAS is a voice of astronomy on the continent and is working to address the challenges faced by Africa through the promotion and advancement of astronomy.


Astronomy activities on the African continent have grown over the last two decades, and astronomy has become one of the emerging scientific fields bringing with its development in terms of infrastructure and human capacity through investments by government and various institutions in Africa and from across the world. Evidence of this rapid growth of astronomy in the continent can be seen through the winning of the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project (the world’s largest radio telescope) and hosting for the first time in Africa the IAU-GA in 2024. South Africa proposed both the SKA and the GA 2024 as “African” bids that will, in time, benefit the continent as a whole.

Using Africa’s geographic advantage of dark skies as a strategic driver for the development of globally competitive astronomy research programmes, there are numerous astronomy infrastructure projects, instruments and training programmes that have burgeoned, making the continent home to mega-science projects capable of producing cutting-edge science in optical astronomy; radio astronomy; and gamma-ray astronomy. There has also been support for various Human Capital Development (HCD) programmes to train young Africans in astronomy, engineering, and related fields such as the National Astrophysics and Space Science and the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy Newton Fund programme.


This session presents an opportunity for major role players to highlight how the different activities described above are enabling the advancement of astronomy in Africa and plans to ensure that Africa becomes one of the world’s leaders in astronomy. It will also allow the speakers to engage with one another and the audience and illustrate how the various institutions’ goals are aligned. The discussions aim to encourage collaborative research and innovation in astronomy and related sciences as well as address topics such as astronomy for development and outreach and education programs, promoting interdisciplinary approaches on how science can contribute to society and address global challenges, and how these collaborations can help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.


  1. Share information on the status of astronomy in Africa, including infrastructure projects and HCD;
  2. Discuss programmes that address the advancement of Astronomy in Africa and their social impact;
  3. Discuss flagship projects and involvement of participating stakeholders leading up to the IAU-GA in 2024 and the envisaged legacy thereafter; and,
  4. Showcase Socio-economic benefits of astronomy in Africa.


  1. Increased Awareness on activities towards advancing the field of astronomy both by Africans and with international collaborators;
  2. Identification of strategic partnerships and collaborations between African institutions and between Africa and the rest of the world; and,
  3. An enhanced vision for astronomy in Africa towards the IAU-GA in 2024.

AfAS-IAU-OAD side event agenda

Date: 06 December 2022                                      

Time: 11:30 to 13:00 CAT/UTC+2:00

Moderator Part 1: Bernard Fanaroff
11:30 (CAT) Opening Remarks:·       Charles Takalana (Head of Secretariat – AfAS)·       
Vanessa McBride (Deputy Director – IAU-OAD, Head of Research – SAAO)
11:35 Initiatives to advance astronomy in the continent
Thebe Medupe – President (AfAS)
11:45 Status of Astronomy in Africa
Mirjana Pović, Executive Committee Member (AfAS)
11:55 Unlocking opportunities for Astrotourism   
Takalani Nemaungani – Chief Director for Astronomy, South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)
12:05 Astronomy for Development and IAU-GA2024 – Impact for Africa
Vanessa McBride – Deputy Director (IAU-OAD), Head of Research (SAAO), Co-chair,(IAU-GA2024 National Organising committee)
12:15 The role of radio astronomy in the growth of Astronomy on the Continent
Rob Adam –  South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)
Moderator Part 2: Petri Vaisanen
12:15 Questions and Panel discussion (45 minutes)
–        Funding instruments
–        Access to opportunities
–        Skills development
–        Infrastructure support and development

Contact Information:

Charles Takalana 

African Astronomical Society (AfAS)


+27 81 481 7416

+27 21 201 1622


Vanessa McBride 

International Astronomical Union (IAU) – Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD)


+27 (0) 21 460 9350