Scepticism as China funds most of Ethiopia's latest satellite project

Scepticism as China funds most of Ethiopia's latest satellite project

Industry experts question China's agenda as African country deepens partnership with second satellite project launched.

Ethiopia intends to launch a communications and broadcast satellite later this year and has signed an agreement with China for the project.

Under the agreement, signed in Addis Ababa by Dr Solomon Belay, Director General of the Ethiopian Institute of Space Science, and Han Chinping, Vice President of China Rocket Company, engineers from both countries will jointly design, develop and manufacture the satellite.

The project is expected to cost US$8-million of which China will provide US$6-million and the government of Ethiopia will see to the balance.

China has also agreed to train Ethiopian technicians.

Ethiopian officials said once completed, the satellite will ensure the African country achieves sovereignty in its telecommunications sector, as well as "create jobs and wealth."

This is Ethiopia's second satellite project, both of which involve China.

In November 2018, both parties announced plans to launch Ethiopia's first satellite, an earth observatory satellite, in September 2019.

The latest announcement has been met with a degree of scepticism, specifically related to China's underlying motives for underwriting most of the cost of the project.

Industry experts have noted that the deal may be a way for China to entrench its influence on Africa's satellite market.

Construction of the satellite is scheduled to begin in June 2019.