China and Africa cooperate in space for different reasons

Experts say China and African nations are increasingly cooperating in space to develop different ideas for the future.

Chinese astronauts are known as taikonauts. They conducted space diplomacy during a six-month mission on the Tiangong space station. The spatial structure is under construction.

Three taikonauts spoke with students from eight African countries via video link this month. The Mission of China to the African Union supported the event.

Temidayo Oniosun is a Nigerian space scientist. He also oversees the Space in Africa site. “This event is a reflection of the current collaboration between China and African countries,” he told VOA of the event.

During the lecture, a young Ethiopian man asked what astronauts eat in space and how they wash themselves. A Somali student wanted to know more about the future of space tourism and an Egyptian student wanted to know if it is difficult for women to become astronauts.

The three taikonauts answered their questions in detail. They showed the students the food they eat in orbit. It included “a delicious purple rice porridge, flavorful jumped up sweet corn with pine nuts and diced beef sautéed in black pepper sauce. The taikonauts explained that because there is almost no gravity in space, it is impossible to take a shower.

China’s interests in Africa

Oniosun said joint efforts are “not necessarily because China and the rest are engaging to help Africa, they do it because they get economic, social and cultural benefits Capital city in return.”

China controls more satellites than any country except the United States A 2020 Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies working paper says China”remote satellite network sensors” in Africa are helping to support its Belt and Road (BRI) development programme. Connecting “partner states” is one of the uses of cooperation in space, he said.

At an event in Addis Ababa, the head of China’s mission to the AU, Hu Changchun, said space was an important part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative . Its goal is to rapidly construct large projects in developing countries for roads, bridges, ports, railways and similar structures.

Hu said that “under the guidance of the Belt and Road Initiative, space cooperation has become a high point of China-Africa cooperation.”

Africa’s interests in space

Oniosun said the African space economy in 2021 was valued at around $19.5 billion. He said it is expected to grow 16% over the next four years. In 2022, 13 African countries have 48 satellites. Six of them were built by China and one by the United States. Experts say satellite communication is extremely important for communication in Africa.

China launched Nigeria’s first communications satellite in 2007 and, in 2011, its second. China also launched Algeria’s first communications satellite in 2017. Experts say Tunisia became the home of the first ground receiving station outside China for its Beidou navigation satellite system in 2018.

China also helped Ethiopia and Sudan launch their first satellites in 2019.

More than 20 African countries now have space programs. The recent AU-China astronaut event was aimed at sparking excitement among African youth, Julie Klinger said. She is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware and spoke to VOA.

Klinger said African nations are not interested in participating in a space race, military use or even manned spaceflight.

They are more interested in space for “socio-economic development”. Klinger added that climate change, environmental observation and disaster control measures are all important parts of China-Africa space cooperation.

However, Klinger said China needs to compete bid for space technology contracts with African governments.

“Honestly they don’t always win, the majority of satellite activity especially in Africa is finance by African governments,” she said. Most of the contracts are won by France. China is second. And the United States is fourth.

Students who participated in the question-and-answer discussion with taikonauts might not care which countries African nations partner with. But some of them may one day become astronauts who go into space themselves.

I am Caty Weaver.

Kate Bartlett reported this story for VOANEWS. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

reflection -not. something that shows the qualities, effects, or existence of something else

collaboration -not. the act of working jointly with others or together, especially in intellectual endeavor

tourism -not. the practice of traveling for leisure

skip -v. fry (food, such as small pieces of meat or vegetables) in a small amount of fat

shower -not. a bath in which water is poured over the body

engage-v. to participate or cause to participate in something

Capital city -not. money and property

remote –adj. to be, relate to, or imply a means of doing or using something indirectly or at a distance

bid -not. an opportunity to make an offer to purchase or provide a service for money

funds -v. pay something, support with money


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