London – Ethiopia, which is receiving £300-million in British aid this year and is one of the world’s poorest nations, is launching its own space programme.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe East African country plans a national space agency and aims to put a satellite into orbit within five years to monitor farmland and to improve communications.\r\n\r\nIt is the fourth nation – following India, Nigeria and Pakistan – to have developed a space programme while in receipt of aid from the Department for International Development (DfID).\r\n\r\nIndia, due to receive £160-million from Britain this year, has sent unmanned missions to Mars and the moon.\r\n\r\nEthiopia’s programme has begun with a $3-million observatory in the hills above the capital Addis Ababa. On the top of Mount Entoto, a peak surrounded by fields ploughed by farmers using oxen, two metal domes have been built to house two computer-controlled telescopes.\r\n\r\nMohammed Alamoudi, an Ethiopian-Saudi businessman who is the country’s richest man, paid for the observatory through the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS), which he set up in 2004 to promote astronomy. The project claims it will give the country a technology boost that will aid development and inspire children, as well as provide a place where astronomy and astrophysics students from the nearby university can train.\r\n\r\nSolomon Belay, the director of the observatory, said he had lobbied his government, telling ministers that space exploration was not a luxury even in a country where malnutrition was a threat.\r\n\r\n“Being poor is not a boundary to start this programme,” he said. “Engineering and sciences are important to transform our (traditional) agriculture into industry.”\r\nIn 2013, the Daily Mail revealed that DfID money had gone into a project that provided £4-million to help fund the Ethiopian girl group Yegna, who modelled themselves on the Spice Girls. The group launched a radio soap opera and released a series of videos aimed at “empowering” teenage girls.\r\nDaily Mail