Ethiopia And China Partner To Launch Communications Satellite

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

China has promised to pay $6 billion of the $8 billion expense to build and launch a second Ethiopian communication satellite in space, raising concerns that China will use the technology to spy.

Engineers from both countries plan to jointly design, develop and manufacture the satellite in Ethiopia, according to ITNewsAfrica.

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This is Ethiopia’s second satellite project. The first is an earth observatory satellite called ETRSS-1 that is expected to launch from China in October 2019, BusinessEthiopia reports.

That project also involved Chinese money and expertise.

China funded most of the first satellite’s construction with the same cost structure as the new project, paying $6 billion of the $8 billion total costs, according to TheEastAfrican.

In April, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited China to monitor the progress of the satellite, 7DNews reported.

It will be launched from China, but its command and control center will be based in Ethiopia.

Once in orbit, it will be used to collect data on changes in climate and weather patterns, Quartz reports.

tech power communications satellite
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. AP Photo – Andy Wong

While the first satellite was built in China, the second is scheduled to be built in Ethiopia beginning in June 2019, according to Ezega.

The communications and broadcast satellite is expected to boost Ethiopia’s telecommunications sector with additional capacity and new capabilities.

Industry experts have questioned the motives behind China funding the majority of this newly agreed project, as well as the first.

Experts have warned that these digital space systems could be used for Beijing’s intelligence operations and electronic surveillance, Quartz reports.

China is heavily involved in Africa across numerous industries, sometimes with questionable practices involving labor.

The presence of Chinese media and telecommunication companies in Africa, as well as investment in African media, continues to be controversial.

The U.S. has accused China of “predatory” practices saying the country is “deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage.”

China has been attracted to invest in Africa due to an abundance of natural resources including oil, gas, and metals to meet its energy imports and construction demand.