On 24 May, 2019, the Chinese embassy in Rwanda handed over a China-funded satellite television project to the Rwandan government in a ceremony in Rulindo District, central Rwanda. The project will provide 6,000 households in 300 villages across Rwanda with access to digital television, as a part of the ongoing long term access to Satellite TV for 10,000 African Villages initiative.
The access to satellite TV for 10,000 African villages project is one of the ten cooperation plans announced by the President of China H.E. Xi Jinping, during the 6th Ministerial Conference of the forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) announced in 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
At the conference in Johannesburg, Beijing also announced a USD 60 billion annual financial commitment to infrastructural development in Africa. In the past decade, China has deliberately shown a pattern of increased financial commitment in Africa. Usually announced during FOCAC, from USD 5 billion in 2006 to 10 billion in 2009, to 20 billion in 2012, and to 60 billion in 2015.
The satellite TV project will be implemented across various nations in Africa on a bilateral technology transfer arrangement with Beijing. The project was launched in Dowa District in Malawi in August 2018. Earlier this year, in January 2019, the project was launched in 1,000 villages in Nigeria.
The project was commissioned in Rwanda on 28 June 2018. The Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda, H.E. RAO Hongwe led the Beijing delegation who met their Rwandan counterparts represented by the Minister of Local Government for the project commissioning ceremony in Rulindo District, Rwanda.
The project was implemented by StarTimes, a privately-owned Chinese electronics, media and satellite TV company with a strong presence in Africa, under the supervision of the Chinese Embassy in Rwanda and the Rwandan Ministry of Local Government.
In a statement on its website, the Chinese Embassy in Rwanda notes: “through the project, 6,000 individual households in 300 villages in Rwanda will be connected with the Satellite television service composed of a satellite dish, a high definition set-top box and accessories while 900 public institutions will be connected through a satellite projector TV system and 32-inch television sets”.
The satellite television service features 23 news, sports, entertainment and religious channels. Rural Rwandans will enjoy the pleasure of being connected to the wider world through satellite television.
Local authorities in Rwanda are excited about the project. Speaking at the handover ceremony, Mr KAYIRANGA Emmanuel, Mayer of Rulindo District, said “on behalf of the district we would like to thank the Chinese government for this donation, and StarTimes for the work they have done to make it happen. We promise to take care of these donations in order for the sets to give the best outcomes as it was intended”, according to a publication by Igihe.com.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.