The official Xinhua news agency says it is the first time that a foreign buyer has purchased both a Chinese satellite and its launching service.
The Nigerian Communication Satellite NIGCOMSAT-1 is expected to offer broadcasting, phone and broadband internet services for Africa.China beat 21 other bidders in 2004 for the $311m contract to launch the satellite, Xinhua says.The satellite, lofted by a Long March 3-B rocket, is expected to reach its final position later this year and to remain in operation for 15 years.The launch is being portrayed as part of a drive to enhance rural access to technology and the internet and boost Nigeria's and Africa's knowledge economy."It gives you bandwidth to enable you to communicate from point A to point B, from rural Africa to urban cities," Dr Bashir Gwandu, a member of the Satellite Launch Committee and a director at the Nigeria Communications Commission told the BBC's Focus on Africa.
Nigeria has been experiencing a communications revolution in recent years, says the BBC's Alex Last, and is one of the fastest growing mobile phone markets in Africa and the world.having a space programme is also symbolic of how Nigeria wants to be seen as a growing player on the world stage.Critics say the majority of the population live in poverty and the internet can be made redundant by the simple fact that electricity is sporadic at best.The government should rather spend all this money on power, job creation and basic public services, they say.
This is the latest example of growing economic co-operation between China and Africa.China is buying African raw materials, and building infrastructure such as roads.The launch represented "China's wish to cooperate with developing countries in the peaceful use of outer space and to promote a closer relationship between China and African countries," Xinhua says.China is expanding its space programme, and in 2003 became only the third country to launch a man into space.This is one of 30 foreign satellites China has been commissioned to launch, Xinhua reports.Nigeria already has a weather satellite launched in 2003 with Russian assistance.