Nigeria, Rwanda become 1st African nations to sign Artemis Accords

Rwanda Space Agency Director-General Colonel Francis Ngabo (L) and Nigerian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Ibrahim (R) sign on to the Artemis Accords as NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (R) and Assistant Secretary of State Monica Medina watch, during the Space Forum at the U.S. - Africa Leaders Summit on December 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Rwanda Space Agency Director-General Colonel Francis Ngabo (L) and Nigerian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Ibrahim (R) sign on to the Artemis Accords as NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (R) and Assistant Secretary of State Monica Medina watch, during the Space Forum at the U.S. - Africa Leaders Summit on December 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Image credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Nigeria and Rwanda became the first African nations to sign the Artemis Accords this week during the first-ever U.S.-Africa Space Forum.

The Artemis Accords are a broad non-binding framework that lay out agreements for responsible and peaceful international exploration of the moon. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced the addition of Nigeria and Rwanda to this agreement on the first day of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC (Dec. 13 - Dec. 15), of which the inaugural space forum was a part. 

The United States State Department later issued a statement (opens in new tab) commemorating the addition of Nigeria and Rwanda to the agreement. "Nigeria and Rwanda became the first African nations to sign the Artemis Accords. Participants in the Forum, which was part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, discussed how to further shared goals through the peaceful exploration and use of outer space," the statement reads.

Related: Artemis Accords: Why the international moon exploration framework matters

The Accords were signed by Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Ibrahim on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by Rwanda Space Agency CEO Francis Ngabo on behalf of the Republic of Rwanda, according to the statement.

"Signatories commit to principles to guide their civil space activities, including the public release of scientific data, responsible debris mitigation, registration of space objects, and the establishment and implementation of interoperability standards," the State Department's statement continues.

The Artemis Accords were launched jointly by NASA and the U.S. State Department along with eight nations in 2020 with the announced aim of advancing bilateral and multilateral space cooperation between signatories. Nigeria and Rwanda signing up to the moon coalition means there are now 23 signatories to the Accords, which sets of principles and best practices for exploration.

The Accords take inspiration for their name from NASA's Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon by the end of the 2020s.

The first countries to sign up were the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, with South Korea in 2021 becoming the first of many to sign during the Biden administration. Other nations such as Russia and China have argued that the accords are far too U.S.-centric and represent a power grab by the U.S. and its allies. 

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI (opens in new tab).