The space heroine of Cameroon.

BBC reports on scientist Marie Makuate, who is leading a one-woman campaign to give the African continent a winning position in the new space race:

As a geospatial expert for the NGO Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, she creates maps to help emergency services navigate an unpredictable territory so that people in need can be reached quickly.

It is a job that Ms Makuate says gives her purpose and motivation.

“I was shocked to hear about the [Morocco] disaster, but then I thought that if I mapped as much infrastructure as possible, it would help other people save lives.”

Morocco does have its own satellites, but Ms Makuate makes the case that more African countries should be sending them into space and make their output more freely available.

This is not just about emergencies. Satellite imagery can help, among other things, in boosting agriculture, analysing population changes and understanding what is happening to natural resources such as water.

“If a country has its own satellite, it doesn’t have to pay for the images,” says the young scientist.

Satellite images can cost up to $25 (£20) per square kilometre – getting high-definition photographs of an area the size of Lagos, for example, would cost more than $80,000.

Ms Makuate has been making her case for more pan-African collaboration in front of a group of industry specialists that came together this week in Angola’s capital, Luanda, for the NewSpace Africa Conference.

There is huge potential in the African space sector – it is expected to be worth more than $20bn by 2026, according to consultancy firm Space in Africa. But the vast majority of this money is coming from outside the continent – through companies who are selling services to Africans.

“Imagine if we can just take 10% of that share and invest it in African companies,” says Dr Zolana João, the general manager of the Angolan National Space Programme.

He, like Ms Makuate, believes that greater investment within the continent will better serve African governments, which are often hampered by a lack of reliable data.