Teenage Girls to Design Africa’s First Private Space Satellite

Pictured: Ayesha Salie, Sesam Mngqengqiswa, and Bhanekazi Tandwa

A team of high school girls from Cape Town, South Africa are preparing to launch the continent’s first private satellite into orbit. As part of a project by South Africa’s Meta Economic Development Organization (MEDO) and Morehead State University, the satellite will use data transmitted to determine and predict the problems Africa will be facing in the future.

A total of 14 teenage girls is being trained by satellite engineers from Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in a bid to encourage more African women into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

South Africa's program aims to encourage girls into STEM, particularly astronomy. Less than 10% of young women are interested in STEM subjects.
South Africa’s program aims to encourage girls into STEM, particularly astronomy. Less than 10% of young women are interested in STEM subjects.

“We expect to receive a good signal, which will allow us to receive reliable data,” says 16-year-old Sesam Mngqengqiswa, of Philippi High School. “In South Africa we have experienced some of the worst floods and droughts and it has really affected the farmers very badly.”

By 2020 80% of jobs will be related to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), MEDO predicts, but currently only 14% of the STEM workforce globally are women.
By 2020 80% of jobs will be related to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), MEDO predicts, but currently, only 14% of the STEM workforce globally are women.

South Africa is expected to import between 3 million and 4 million tonnes of maize to meet its shortfall this year. “It has caused our economy to drop … This is a way of looking at how we can boost our economy,” says the young Mngqengqiswa.