Djibouti, a small nation located in the Horn of Africa, has entered into a $1 billion deal with Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group to construct a rocket and satellite launch site in the country. The project also includes the building of a port and highway in the northern region of Obok, which will be used for the transportation of materials required for the development of the aerospace sites. According to Djibouti’s President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, the project is expected to take around five years to complete.
The small country holds a strategic importance as it houses the United States’ biggest military base on the African continent. China, Japan, and France also have military bases in the former French colony. This move by Djibouti is seen as an effort to boost its economy and increase its involvement in the global space race.
China, which is second only to the United States in terms of the number of satellites, has been increasing its collaboration with African nations in space. Experts say that satellite communication is essential to bridge the connectivity gap in the continent, but the African space program has raised concerns among some Western countries.
This comes as the African space economy is forecasted to grow by 16% in the next four years, and as of 2022, 13 African countries had 48 satellites, of which six were built by China and one by the United States. The move also raises questions about providing aid to African nations, as some believe that if a country can afford a space program, it does not need aid.