Africa 'needs more scientists' for SKA project

radioamandabhslaterShortage of human capacity may hamper SKA project in Africa. (Image source: amandabhslater/Flickr)Experts have said that African countries need more scientists to develop and carry out research on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope project

Head of astronomy at the National Research Foundation (NRF), Nithaya Chetty, said it was essential for the continent to start investing in human capacity development to bring the project to life.

“It is going to be absolutely tragic if all we do is build up the infrastructure and don’t have sufficient African scientists to utilise the facilities,” said Chetty. 

“The question around human capital is relevant not only to South Africa, but throughout the continent because SKA is not a South Africa project but an African one.”

The NRF official also added that the plan was to develop radio astronomy into the rest of Africa and the telescopes would be built in various other African counties including Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana.

With shortage of human capacity being felt, the NRF has been prioritising development of the capacity to work on the landmark project. There are numerous outreach programmes currently underway to attract new astronomers and develop existing human capacity.

South Africa partnered with other countries in the southern hemisphere in its bid to be selected as the location of what will be the largest radio telescope ever built.

The central part of the telescope would be in the Karoo region of Northern Cape province while outlying stations would be erected in Botswana, Madagascar, Namibia, Ghana, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Mauritius.

The other segment of the SKA would be built in Australia and New Zealand.

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