Ageing satellite dishes, once the backbone of Africa’s telecommunications system, are being given a new lease of life as radio telescopes.

The thrifty project aims to boost the skills of the continent’s scientists as Africa prepares to host the US$2.1 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA), set to be the world’s most powerful radio telescope when it is completed in the mid-2020s. In May, the SKA project leaders decided that Africa, with South Africa at the helm, would split the array with Australia and New Zealand . The SKA will detect radiation from the early Universe, giving clues to how the first stars and galaxies formed.

This antenna in Kuntunse, Ghana, is in line for an upgrade.