More than 40 countries in Africa have discovered the myriad of uses for satellite communications, according to the International Maritime Satellite Organisation (Inmarsat).
From Guinea to Madagascar and from Morocco to South Africa, Inmarsat communications are used by disaster-relief organisations, transport management, mining firms and oil-exploration companies. They are employed for monitoring cargo traffic through ports, for sending telegrams and for voice telephone in remote rural areas.
"The satellite telephone has been a real life-saver," exclaims Anushka Mayer, a field officer in Somalia for the Save the Children Fund (SCF) working in the ruins of Mogadishu. We let the journalists use ours in the early days, before they had their own. Without them, the world would have heard about the disaster much later than it did."
Satellite communications are ideally suited for disaster, emergency, relief and development work because they operate independently of the local telecommunications infrastructure.
SCF employs satellite communications in Somalia, Somaliland, Liberia and Angola. SCF and other relief agencies, such as the UN, use Inmarsat-A satphones to send immediate requests for supplies of food, medicine and equipment to their headquarters. Increasingly, too, UN personnel are using Inmarsat-As for protection purposes, to keep them informed about potential danger.
Inmarsat is an internationally owned co-operative of 73 member-countries, including nine in Africa, with headquarters in London. Established in 1979 to...