Ethiopia to Become Regional Astronomical Hub with New Development Office

The new office cements Ethiopia's leading role in astronomical development in the East African region

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is soon to open an East African regional office in Addis Abeba.

This is according to an agreement signed between the IAU and quadrilateral parties inEthiopiaon Friday, January 10, 2014, at the Ellili International Hotel – located on Guinea Conakry Streetin the Kasanchis area.

The IAU, which was founded in 1919, is the internationally recognised authority for coordinating the activities of space societies across the world. It is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.The agreement, signed by Demitu Hambisa, minister of Science & Technology, and Piero Benvenuti, the assistant secretary general of the IAU, aims to facilitate training and conduct research.

The office, also known as the Regional Office of Astronomical Development (ROAD), comprises of the Ministry of Science &Technology, the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS) and Addis Abeba University (AAU).

The ROAD is the first regional office to be established inAfrica, aiming to support astronomy research endeavours and to provide training.

The IAU was founded with the mission to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU is functional under the United Nations (UN).

The international body will support the ROAD by soliciting funds and helping it to gain international and continental recognition by providing updates on its progress. The agreement is a significant milestone for the growth and development of astronomy inEast Africa, says Kevin Govender, director of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) – an international office under the IAU.

The establishment of the East African regional node inEthiopiawas strongly backed by the East African Astronomical Society (EAAS). It comprises of several countries, includingBurundi,Ethiopia,Kenya,Rwanda,Sudan,TanzaniaandUganda.

The EAAS is a professional society inEast Africa. It is expected to assist and lead the development of astronomy, space science and technology research and education in the region, in collaboration with Entoto Observatory, OAD-IAU and the ROAD, Solomon Belay, director of Entoto Observatory and a member of the IAU and EAAS, said.

The IAU works to promote astronomical education and research in developing countries through its Program Groups. These include the International Schools for Young Astronomers (ISYA), Teaching for Astronomy Development (TAD) and the World Wide Development of Astronomy (WWDA). This is as well as through joint educational activities with The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) andthe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Ethiopian authorities are hopeful that the IAU will establish fruitful collaborations with Ethiopian research institutions and universities.

“The international body should strive to strengthen regional network as much as possible,” Demitu, the minister, said.

She was supported by Tefera Walwa, chairperson of the ESSS.

“The establishment of the office will help us to be competent, continentally and globally,”he told the gathering. “Universities and research institutions will benefit.”

Ethiopiahas played a leading role in astronomy in the region. In February 2011,Ethiopiawas host to the East African regional workshop of astronomy, during which the foundations were secured for the East African Astronomical Society.

The IAU strategic plan was ratified by its members in 2009. Since then, the global coordinating office – the OAD – was established inCape Town,South Africaand has led the implementation of this plan.


Published on January 12,2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 715]



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