Satellite TV is China's Spear in Africa

Satellite TV is China's Spear in Africa

Star Times

There is a Chinese company that broadcasts programs and advertising from Beijing to 10 million subscribers in 30 African countries. The plan was launched by Xi Jinping

In 2015 China's President Xi Jinping announced the "10,000 Village Project", a plan to bring digital television to the poorest areas of Africa. Access to television was then a privilege of elites on the black continent, and the poor who watched TV were limited to old and analog sets.

All of that would change with Xi's plan, which was to bring a constellation of channels to the remotest places in Africa, allowing Beijing's channels to be watched by Africans. As you can read today in a CNN article, the goal was not just philanthropic.

Four years later, the Chinese company Star Times, which won the government's public tender for the "Village 10,000 Project", is almost dominating an African market of 1.2 billion people.

It controls television networks in Zambia and Kenya, to the extent that there are fears in these countries that China might cause them to black out if they ever want to.

As CNN's article states, Star Times' power is already being matched to that of telecommunication giant Huawei (which is at the heart of the trade war with the United States). But unlike Huawei, Star Times is one of the most important tools of Beijing's "soft" power in Africa. And most of the world doesn't even know its name.

CNN report came from outside Nairobi, Kenya, to visit Michael Nganga's home. This man is a subscriber of the Chinese satellite television service. Resident at Limuru village, he was enjoying a Chinese Kung Fu movie when he received the reporting crew. Nganga has no drinking water at home and the walls are made of zinc. Outside the chickens run in the yard. But this shoemaker, father of two children. have a huge satellite in his tent that connects him to hundreds of channels, many of them Chinese.

In 2018, when Beijing held China / Africa Forum, most African heads of state dependent on Chinese loans had an important commitment that could not fail: a visit to Star Times headquarters outside the Chinese capital. After all, the expansion of contracts in Africa to switch from analogue to digital television is dependent on the good graces of friendly governments on the black continent. Star Times knows this, and so does the Xi Jinping regime.