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Building bonds with Africa through our shared sky

In a small town 140 km west of Nairobi, most young girls want to be doctors, lawyers or singers. Ann Neri Ng’endo wanted to study space science. Now at the age of 27, she is on the right path with Development for Africa through Radio Astronomy (DARA), an STFC-funded project looking to fuel growth in Africa through radio astronomy.

Sub-Saharan Africa is now becoming a radio astronomy hotbed. In 2012, it was announced that South Africa and Australia, along with eight African partners would host the Square Kilometre Array: the world’s largest radio telescope.

DARA was created by Leeds University professor Melvin Hoare, combining his interest of developing nations with his professional passions. So far DARA, partnering with local institutions has trained radio astronomers from Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Namibia and Botswana. In these countries DARA will build telescopes or convert telecommunications antennas into radio telescopes.

Newton fund logoThe partnership, which includes several UK universities and industrial partners, goes beyond training to use telescopes. Staffed by experienced telecommunications and space industry entrepreneurs, DARA educates its trainees into business practice and knowledge transfer. In two years' Hoare expects to see DARA's first PhD students complete their training and returning to their home countries to set up their own research groups.

“This experience has enabled me to do a project at a radio observatory, something beyond my wildest imagination a few months ago.” - Ann Neri Ng’endo

Image credit: HartRAO

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