Beijing, China – Chinese digital television company, StarTimes Group, has reaffirmed it will expand digital signal to over 10,000 villages in Africa by the end of 2017 based on a commitment made by President Xi Jinping during the Forum on Africa China Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2013.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni – [email protected]
The Chinese Digital TV provider says moving from analog to digital will help boost Africa’s cooperation with China and make satellite television affordable for Africans households
But Liberia’s Information minister, who is currently on a official trip to China, says the country is seeking “friendly funding” for the implementation of its digital migration project to avoid putting constraints on major priorities captured in its national budget.
The digital migration initiative embodies China-Africa cultural cooperation, helps improve television and radio signals in Africa, improves education through television and promotes the sound progress of the continent, says Ping Xinxing, President of StarTimes Group.
Speaking at the opening of the 7th African digital TV development seminar organized by StarTimes Group in Beijing on Monday, May 22, Mr. Pang expressed confidence that due to cooperation with African countries, his firm can achieve “fruitful results” before the end of the year, adding, “I hope ever African household can afford good digital TV signal”.
The seminar, held under the theme “Universalize Digital TV and Enjoy Smart Life”, brought together over 400 participants including government ministers and top communication policy makers of 46 African and Asian countries. Amongst the senior African officials were the ministers of information of Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Zambia, Malawi and Liberia.
The gathering, which is held every year since 2011, intends to promote the development of digital television in Africa with its main focus on moving from analog to digitalization otherwise known as digital migration. The initiative will make the cost of subscription affordable for the average users of digital terrestrial TV in many African countries.
The seminar is an important platform for communicating, sharing and adopting policy to improve the continent’s digital signal.
According to some experts, the expansion of digital television will strengthen Africa’s media, enhance cooperation, boost culture exchange and share development experiences.
StarTimes says it has invested US$260 million in the project with digital signals now reaching 81 large and middle cities across the continent, and the project also intends to further advance cooperation between China and Africa countries.
Is Liberia Ready of Digital Migration?
Meanwhile, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, Information Minister of Liberia, says the country is aware of the advantages of digitalization ever since it signed up as a member of the International Telecommunication Union – an agreement that calls for total global digital migration by the end of 2030 – but he says the cost is burden for the country.
“So, we have been – as a country – making the rudimentary steps for us to achieve this goal,” Minister Nagbe told FrontPage Africa during an exclusive interview in Beijing.
“We have not made sufficient progress because of the cost that is proven to be very prohibitive; we are exploring all means of finding innovative financing that Liberia can be able to join the rest of the world to transition from analog to digital.”
At the seminar, the minister highlighted the resources constraints of countries like his due to already too many competing development priorities, while calling on the Chinese government and the company to help develop innovative ways of financing the project for Liberia.
But with the Chinese digital television provider poise to expand across the continent and provide affordable subscription fees as low as US$10 per month, he disclosed that the firm has already made a proposal to the Liberian government, which cost is being review to ensure the country move forward to a new digital era.
“Right now in Liberia the access to digital television is limited and expensive for ordinary Liberians, [but] with this new proposal [from StarTimes] that has the backing of the government of the People’s Republic of China, Liberia believes that we can also benefit,” he said.
Although digital migration is not on top of the list priorities for the government, Nagbe emphasized the need for “innovative funding or friendly funding” for Liberia’s digital migration without putting constraints on major “life and death” projects.
He also clarified that the expansion of StarTimes in Liberia will help broaden alternatives for satellite television users, improve the quality of service and reduce the prices for subscribers.
“We are encouraging them (StarTimes Group) to come to Liberia, because we as Liberians also have the right to enjoy all rights of the ICT (information communication technology) revolution,” the minister said.