This Satellite Contract Shows Just How Much China Is Winning In Africa

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Apstar 7

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Apstar 7's footprint.

American satellite communication over Africa is so bad that the Department of Defense contracted Chinese satellite Apstar 7 to provide communications for AFRICOM.

Let that sink in for a second.

Wired's Noah Shactman writes:

Every new drone feed and every new soldier with a satellite radio creates more appetite for bandwidth — an appetite the military can’t hope to fill with military spacecraft alone ...

The Chinese are poised to help fill that need — especially over Africa, where Beijing has deep business and strategic interests. In 2012, China for the first time  launched more rockets into space than the U.S.  – including the  Chinasat 12  and Apstar-7 communications satellites.

But the satellite is just the end of a very long race, one the U.S. seems to be losing.

Over the past ten years, China has expanded aggressively into Africa with several very lucrative resource development deals.

In order to develop Africa's resources, China has also needed to establish an adequate infrastructure, including roads, electricity, and communications satellite (not to mention extensive security from  one-time private army wunderkind and Blackwater founder Eric Prince).

The Pentagon, not entirely oblivious to the problems of using a Chinese satellite, has contracted the foreign company for only one year, no doubt hoping that military infrastructure will catch up in that time.

Members of Congress have expressed worry that there could be backdoors in the satellite's hardware that would expose sensitive military communications. A recent DoD study even recommended ridding the U.S. military of all hardware built in foreign countries.

The satellite news comes on top of recent revelation that China's "African aid" totalled $70 billion over the last decade.

The figure is on par with what America spends — except while America spends money on social welfare projects, China's aid to Africa is at least accused of being focused on exploiting resources.

America also spends money on military expansion in Africa to battle the spread of Al Qaeda . As seen by the satellite deal, however, this expansion may now be dependent on China.

China also picked up lucrative deals in Iraq and Afghanistan after America paid for invasion.



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