South African company awarded a major contract as construction of the world’s largest radio astronomy infrastructure and telescope commences


South African company awarded a major contract as construction of the world’s largest radio astronomy infrastructure and telescope commences

The Minister of Higher Education, Science Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has welcomed the awarding of the SKA-Mid infrastructure contract to South Africa as part of the construction of the mid-frequency components of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape.

The Minister, last week, attended a ceremony hosted by the international SKA Observatory (SKAO), at the SKA site, signalling the commencement of the on-site construction of the world’s largest radio astronomy infrastructure and telescopes in South Africa and Australia.

The telescope will be built at a cost of €1,3 billion and will be completed in 2028.  The construction and operations of the telescope will be managed by the SKAO: an intergovernmental organisation comprising 16 partner countries established in 2021.  As part of the commencement, €300 million worth of contracts awarded to companies across the SKAO partnership was announced, including the production of the telescope dishes and antennae and the major infrastructure work at the telescope sites.

South Africa has already constructed the 64-dish MeerKAT antennae that will eventually form part of the SKA-Mid telescope.

"I wish to congratulate Power Adenco Joint Venture (Pty) Ltd, which has been appointed as the successful bidder for the tender to build the major civils infrastructure, which includes a rollout of power, fibre and roads, and will be the biggest contract awarded by SKAO to a South African-based company, amounting close to R890 million," said the Minister.


Minister Nzimande said that local participation in the construction of SKA telescope is a key requirement of the SKAO, making the awarding of this contract highly significant.


"A proportionate amount of the contract value will indeed be spent with local small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), employment of local people, training and transferring skills to local people, supporting local businesses and implementing community development initiatives in conjunction with the SKAO and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)," said the Minister.

 This contract is in addition to recently awarded contracts to SARAO and South African companies such as Vivo Technical, Zutari and EMCOM.  A total estimated value of contracts worth R1,2 billion have now been awarded to South African entities, with further contracts expected.  Furthermore, it is expected that the leasing of buildings to be constructed, and ongoing technical maintenance and operations of the SKAO for the next 50 years will deliver long-term, sustainable foreign investment to South Africa.


The Minister congratulated the SKAO for delivering on its promise of ensuring that South Africa and other member countries get their fair share of returns, which demonstrates that major scientific projects of this nature can make positive socio-economic impacts.

Over and above direct foreign investment and indirect return on investment in the form of job creation, SMME development, human capital development, science tourism and other related benefits, South Africa’s membership in the SKAO will continue to enhance the country’s international reputation as a partner and destination for science and technology investment and collaborations.


This return on investment is testament to the hard work done by South Africa over the past 20 years.  The local design, manufacturing and construction of the MeerKAT telescope by SARAO proved that South Africa has extremely competent technical and engineering capabilities.  The MeerKAT telescope, which will eventually be integrated into the SKA-Mid telescope, continues to receive scientific accolades from across the world for several amazing discoveries made since it was launched in 2018.  Many of these discoveries have been delivered by the local astronomy community, which has grown exponentially and transformed over the past decade to become globally competitive.

The SKA-Mid telescope will ultimately see 133 dish antennae added to the existing 64-dish MeerKAT telescope, totalling nearly 200 dishes of 15m in diameter each. Most dishes will be concentrated in a core, with three spiral arms extending over 150km.

The involvement of South African entities in the construction of the SKA project and the transfer of benefits through these contracts to the local communities is but one of the many ways that the country will continue to realise the rewards of its involvement and investments in the global SKAO.


About the SKAO

The SKAO is an intergovernmental organisation that comprises member states from five continents and is headquartered in the UK.  Its mission is to build and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes to transform our understanding of the universe, and deliver benefits to society through global collaboration and innovation.

Its two telescopes, each composed of hundreds of dishes and thousands of antennae, will be constructed in South Africa and Australia and eventually be the two most advanced radio telescopes on Earth.  A later expansion is envisioned in both countries and other African partner countries.

Together with other state-of-the-art research facilities, the SKAO’s telescopes will explore the unknown frontiers of science and deepen our understanding of key processes, including the formation and evolution of galaxies, fundamental physics in extreme environments and the origins of life.  Through the development of innovative technologies and its contribution to addressing societal challenges, the SKAO will play its part to address the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and deliver significant benefits across its membership and beyond.

The SKAO recognises and acknowledges the indigenous peoples and cultures that have traditionally lived on the lands on which the SKAO facilities are located.


Issued by the Department of Science and Innovation and Square Kilometre Array Observatory


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