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Italy cleared to use Malindi for rocket launch

Parliament buildings in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Parliament has finally ratified a new deal on the use of the multi-billion dollar rocket launching facility in Malindi, paving the way for Nairobi and Rome to conclude the pact.

The National Assembly approved the report by the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee backing the Cabinet decision on the signing of a new five-year agreement that will see Kenya reap Sh25 million annually from Italy for the use of the land hosting the San Marco Space Centre, now renamed Broglio Space Centre.

Kenya has been negotiating for the new deal since 2012 when the previous pact ended.

Although some lawmakers raised concerns about the agreement, the House voted to retire a 1995 deal that gave Italy an upper hand in the use of the facility.

The Sh25 million will be reviewed every five years, with a $50,000 (Sh5 million) increment.

Kenya will in addition pocket 50 percent of profits of contracts with third parties for commercial services provided by the facility, including launching services, satellite tracking and telemetry, communication, data acquisition, surveillance and navigation.

Italy 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.

Kenya and Italy reached a deal in 2016. The Constitution requires the agreement to be effected with parliamentary approval.

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


Rocket launching, satellite-tracing and control of orbiting facility are governed under rules of engagement signed between Rome and London and bar any Kenyan from occupying a senior position there.

Under the new deal, a Kenyan will deputise the Italian charged with the overall management of the space facility.

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.

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


Only tokens have been channelled to the local Ngomeni community, through the Coast Development Authority, by the Italian government.

“There is a shift in that there will be 15 scholarships for Kenyans each at a cost of Sh2.6 million compared to the 1995 agreement,” Emanuel Wangwe, the Majority Chief Whip, said during debate on the report.

The committee chaired by Kajiado MP Katoo Ole Metito had recommended to the House to approve the new agreement under the Treaty-Making and Ratification Act.

“The committee recommends that the House approve 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,” Mr Metito said in the report.