'Talk with Taikonauts' helps boost cooperation between China and the AU
Hu Changchun

Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for movers and shakers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Hu Changchun is the Head of Mission of the People's Republic of China to the African Union and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. The article reflects the author's views, and not necessarily those of CGTN.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the African Union (AU), the China Mission to the AU, the China Manned Space Agency and the African Union Commission jointly organized the event "Talk with Taikonauts — Q&A Session between the Shenzhou-14 Astronaut Crew and African Youths" on September 6.

This is the first time that a major aerospace power has direct contact with African youths through "space-ground communications," which will further inspire the young African generation to look up at the stars and devote themselves to science and technology. The success of the event not only demonstrates the solidarity and close cooperation between China and Africa, but also shows the firm will of China and Africa to work together to scale the heights of science and technology.

In recent years, thanks to the impetus provided by the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), space cooperation has become a highlight of China-Africa cooperation. The two sides have achieved fruitful results through various forms of cooperation, such as satellite import and export, joint construction of space infrastructures, sharing of satellite resources and joint satellite research and development. China's space science and technology is playing an increasingly important role in promoting the economic and social development of African countries and bringing benefits to the lives of African people.

First, China has helped African countries to upgrade their space facilities. Six of the 45 African satellites launched between 1998 and 2021 were made and launched in China. Chinese companies have also helped African countries such as Nigeria, Algeria, Ethiopia and Sudan to build five satellites. In January 2019, China and Egypt signed a cooperative agreement on the construction of EgyptSat-2. The deal includes the construction of a small remote sensing satellite, a ground control station, and a set of ground application systems. Upon completion of the project, Egypt will be the first African country to have complete capabilities of satellite assembly, integration and testing.

People are seen inside the Egyptian Space Agency's unfinished Satellite Assembly, Integration and Test Center, which is being built with help from China in Cairo, Egypt, on July 25, 2021. /Xinhua

People are seen inside the Egyptian Space Agency's unfinished Satellite Assembly, Integration and Test Center, which is being built with help from China in Cairo, Egypt, on July 25, 2021. /Xinhua

Second, China provides high-quality training to help Africa cultivate local space talents. Since 2014, China has provided government-funded scholarships to African graduate students from eight countries — namely Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Togo, Cameroon, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sudan — for them to study in the fields of remote sensing and geographic information system, satellite communication and navigation, and small satellite technology. China has also carried out space science and technology innovation cooperation and exchange activities with universities and research institutions in countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Tunisia, Cameroon and Morocco.

Third, China uses space science and technology to support Africa's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To aid the medical and education sectors in Africa, China has provided satellite-based digital technology support, which has played an important role in popularizing knowledge of pandemic control and ensuring teaching activities in African countries. In May 2020, a team from the China Academy of Space Technology, in cooperation with the Algerian Space Agency, launched a distance learning system with the help of ALCOMSAT-1 and opened the National Education Channel, effectively solving the problem in students' access to classes. In addition, with the help of satellite-enabled digital technology, Chinese companies have disseminated real and effective information on pandemic control to the general public, injecting positive energy into China-Africa solidarity in the fight against COVID-19.

With joint efforts, the China-AU space cooperation has forged ahead with great potential. Last November, China and the AU jointly organized the first China-Africa BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) Cooperation Forum to build an important exchange platform between China and Africa in the field of satellite navigation, during which a report titled "10 Application Scenarios of BDS in Africa" was released, showcasing practical application cases and future cooperation ideas around BDS in Africa. According to the Dakar Action Plan of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation adopted in November last year, the AU will work with the China National Space Administration to deliberate on and draft the White Paper on China-Africa Space Cooperation, identifying key areas and directions for cooperation. China-Africa space cooperation will bring a wide range of benefits to the people of China and Africa.

In October this year, the Communist Party of China will hold its 20th National Congress to lead the Chinese people on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in a holistic way. The AU will also soon to adopt the Second Ten Year Implementation Plan under Agenda 2063, which will usher in new development opportunities for Africa.

On the threshold of a new point in history, we should become more united, adhere to the principle of sincere friendship, mutual respect and equal treatment, firmly support each other's core interests, and strengthen friendly exchanges in all fields and at all levels. We should give full play to the leading and exemplary role of China-Africa cooperation; accelerate the alignment of the BRI, the Global Development Initiative and the "Nine Programs" with the AU's Agenda 2063 and the African Development Agenda; and turn China-Africa space efforts into a shining example of China-Africa cooperation. China will also continue to strengthen innovative cooperation with Africa in areas such as health and disease control, cross-regional infrastructure construction, green development, digital economy, food security, trade and investment, and upgrade the quality of China-Africa cooperation. China is ready to work with the AU to make tireless efforts in building a more comprehensive and higher-quality China-AU community with a shared future!

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