Italy gets MPs’ nod for Malindi rocket launching centre

Katoo ole Metito with Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma
Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito with Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma at a past event. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL 

Kenya and Italy inched closer to inking a new deal on the use of multi-billion dollar rocket launching facility in Malindi after a parliamentary committee recommended its signing.

The Defence and Foreign Relations committee has backed the Cabinet decision on the signing of a new agreement that will see Kenya reap Sh25 million annually from Italy for use of the land hosting the San Marco Space Centre, now renamed Broglio Space Centre.

“The committee recommends that pursuant to section 8 of the Treaty-Making and Ratification Act, the House approves ratification of the agreement between the government of the Republic of Kenya and the government of the Italian Republic on the Luigi Broglio-Malindi Space Centre,” Katoo ole Metito who chairs the team said in the report to the House.

If the report is approved, Kenya will collect a sum of Sh25 million ($250,000) for use of the land provided for the facility as it is at the beginning of the agreement.

The amount will then be reviewed after every five years with a $50,000 (Sh5 million) increment.


Kenya will in addition pocket 50 per cent of profits of contracts with third parties for commercial services provided by the facility, including but not limited to launching services, satellite tracking and telemetry services, communication services, data acquisition, surveillance and navigation.

The Italian government will further remit to Kenya an annual authorisation fee of Sh5 million ($50,000) from each third party for the use of the facility.

The authorisation fee will be reviewed every five years during the period of the agreement.

Kenya has hosted the Italian-run San Marco Space Centre since 1962 without benefiting from it due to a pre-Independence agreement signed with Rome.

The rocket launching, satellite-tracing and control of orbiting facility is governed under rules of engagement signed between Rome and London and bars any Kenyan from occupying a senior position there.

The Malindi-based San Marco Space Centre was set up in 1962 and has been used for the launching of sounding rockets, study the propagation of radio waves and archiving of satellite data.

The agreement between the University of Rome and the Royal Technical College — now the University of Nairobi — for space science has been renewed four times and expired in December 2012.

Kenya and Italy have been renegotiating a new agreement and reached a deal in 2016. The agreement can only be effected after Parliament approval in line with the law.

The space centre was not meant to be an income-generating programme base on the agreements that were renewed in 1975, 1995 and the ongoing negotiations.

Only tokens have been channelled to the Ngomeni community through the Coast Development Authority from the government of Italy.

“Broglio Space Centre has not effectively undertaken corporate social responsibility for the benefit of the local community,” the House report says.