China and Africa to Strengthen Collaboration on Beidou Satellite System

BeiDou satellite navigation system. Source: CGTN

The first China-Africa BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) Cooperation Forum was organised by the China Satellite Navigation Office, China National Space Administration, Secretariat of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Ministry of Digital Economy and Telecommunications of Senegal, and Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Department of the African Union Commission.

Government representatives, industry leaders, and researchers from China, experts and scholars from various African national administrations and the African Union attended the event, which was held on November 5 2021, and shared their thoughts at the Forum. One of the resolutions of the event was a joint agreement to take advantage of the Beidou system to enhance Africa’s social, economic, and environmental developments. Furthermore, representatives from nearly 50 African nations, including eight government ministers and eight ambassadors to China, participated in the event.

Speaking at the Forum, the chairman of the China Satellite Navigation Committee, He Yubin, commented, “ China will join hands with Africa to promote Beidou-based services on the continent to foster local industries and businesses and help to create more jobs and reduce poverty.”  

The African Union Commission’s director of human resources, science and technology, Mahama Ouedraogo, reiterated that Beidou will become a significant tool in Africa’s development and expressed the Union’s anticipation to broader collaboration with China in giving access to satellite navigation to more users on the continent to inject new momentum into local economies.

In addition, the secretary-general of China National Space Administration, Xu Hongliang, said that his administration is dedicated to sharing China’s space achievements with Africa to nurture the continent’s science and technology. Furthermore, it is also determined to improve space industry professionals’ exchanges and training to facilitate African countries’ efforts to grow their space capabilities.

Also, Yang Dongpeng, a senior researcher at the China Satellite Navigation Office, said, “Beidou has huge potential in at least ten fields such as road transportation, railway management, agriculture, land mapping and survey, urban construction as well as wildlife protection. As a result, many African enterprises have benefited from their use of Beidou-based products or services”.

Beidou is China’s most extensive space-based system and one of four global navigation networks, along with the United States’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.

In June last year, the final satellite to complete Beidou’s third-generation network was lifted by a Long March 3B carrier rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province and was placed into a geostationary orbit about 36,000 kilometres above the Earth. The following month, President Xi Jinping announced that the system had been completed and had started providing full-scale global services. In addition, since 2000, a total of 59 Beidou satellites, including the first four experimental ones, have been launched from Xichang on 44 Long March 3-series rockets, with some of them having been retired.

Furthermore, Beidou began providing positioning, navigation, timing and messaging services to civilian users in China and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region in December 2012. At the end of 2018, it started providing essential global services. Now, there are 30 third-generation Beidou satellites in three types of orbit – 24 in medium-Earth orbits, three in inclined geosynchronous satellite orbits and three in geostationary orbits. Also, there are some second-generation Beidou satellites in operation offering regional services, according to the China Satellite Navigation Office.