China’s StarTimes Intensifies Digital Revolution in Africa – Signs Agreements With Broadcast Institutions

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye in Beijing, China/008618510699710/

A cross section of African journalists and government information officials at the seminar in Beijing
A cross section of African journalists and government information officials at the seminar in Beijing

China’s StarTimes Group is intensifying digital revolution and expanding its coverage in Africa as its signs additional agreements with African broadcast institutions for migration from analog to digital and quality content building. The media group has signed agreements with additional African countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Angola and Gabon.

The signing took place on Thursday, June 23, 2016, during the 6th African Digital TV Development Seminar hosted by StarTimes in Beijing.

Over 300 delegates from 39 countries, including ministers of broadcasting & TV administrations, heads of national TV stations from African countries, attended the conference. To provide opportunities for African delegates to consult on financing issues in digital migration, the seminar also invited leaders of financial institutions like Export-Import Bank of China, China-Africa Development Fund, China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation to the meeting.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pang Xinxing, the president of StarTimes Group, stressed the need for people in rural areasin Africa to have equal right on information getting.“It’s our mission to promote African digital migration,” Pang said.

Pang told a story about himself, showing how eager people are for getting information. “I was born in a Chinese rural village and I had never touched a TV set until 1985. It’s the first time for us to watch TV and it is really excited for us to know the world outside.”

Pang spoke of the need for African governments to create the environment that enhance StarTimes operations in ensuring the analog-to-digital migration in Africa as well as promote wide digital TV penetration on the continent.

It can be recalled that in 2006, over 156 members of ITU (International Telecommunication Union) in Geneva signed a binding treaty about digital broadcasting migration. African countries are committed to switching off analogue transmission and migrating to digital broadcasting by 2015, however, currently most of African countries haven’t achieved the goal.

Against this backdrop, the StarTimes Group President suggested that African governments ban the manufacturing and import of analogue TV sets, and remove tariff on smart digital TV sets.

However, he said StarTimes has made progress in recent years, with obtaining of licenses and successfully establishing companies in 30 African countries, which 16 of them have their broadcasting networks completely operational. Some of the countries include: Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Guinea, Madagascar , Malawi and Central African Republic, among others.

Also speaking, ministers of information and communication from Chad, Nigeria and Togo, vowed to push the development of African TV industry’s digital migration.

Moustapha Ali Alifeï, Information Minister of Chad, said that the digital migration of Chad has been laggard compared to other countries, and the country needs help from large-scale enterprise like StarTimes and the cooperation of Chinese government on fund providing to achieve the digital migration.

“The delegation of Chad and StarTimes signed a memorandum of cooperation about digital migration, which would bring Chad to a new era,” said the minister, adding that he expected to sign the formal cooperation agreement with StarTimes in the next few months.

Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, indicated that it is quite necessary for Nigeria to achieve national digital migration, by implementing the most advanced standard and best technology.

But Mohammed noted that the digital migration of Nigeria still faces problems of cost and investment, which demands more efforts to realize the migrating of TV signals from analogue to digital. He appealed that information and communication ministers of Africa should cooperate and achieve digital migration goal together.

“It is a golden time for Togo to achieve digital revolution” said Guy Madje Lorenzo, Minister of Communication, Culture, Sports and Civil Education of Togo. However, he also pointed out that financing and investment profit are problems that should be carefully considered during the digital migration process.

According to Dannisi, advisor of UNDP (United Nations Development Program), the divide on digital migration would lead the divide between the rich and poor in terms of information-getting as well as the gap of wealth creating. From Global Digital Divide to Global Digital Opportunity, a report released by World Economic Forum, points out that global attention should be on digital opportunity and that all countries, rich or poor, should take actions for the development of digitalization.

The latest report of Digital Television Forecast in Sub-Sahara Africa released by Digital Television Study in England shows that digital television household penetration rate in Sub-Sahara Africa will soon exceed 50% and it is estimated that digital migration will reach almost every family by 2020. By the end of 2013, there had been 11 million subscribers of Pay-TV, among which 8.5 million users had opted for satellite television. By 2020, the number will reach 26.65 million. Pay-TV revenue in Sub-Sahara is $3.17 billion, estimated to increase by 69% to $5.35 billion by 2020.

Founded in 1988, StarTimes Group is now the most influential system integrator, technology provider, network operator and content provider in China’s television broadcasting industry, and is on its way to become a media group with global influence. With a global vision, StarTimes began to expand its businesses to African in 2002, and has been working closely with African governments to jointly promote digitization and information.

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About Cholo Brooks 15600 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.