Nigeria's NASDRA seeks $100M to buy stakes in RASCOM

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

The National Space Development and Regulatory Agency of Nigeria (Nasdra) has asked for $100 million from the Federal Government to buy shareholding in the Regional African Satellite Communications Organisation (RASCOM), a pan-African satellite organisation that plans to provide Africa with its own satellite for relaying telephone, data and TV signals.

Rascom, which represents the interests of some 38 African telecoms operators and other investors, had in 2000 formed a commercial entity, RascomStar-QAF, which plans to launch the first African satellite covering the whole continent later this year.   Technology Times checks revealed that Nasdra, in justifying the request for the additional funding, has cited a potential threat to marketing capacity on its recently launched Nigcomsat-1 and hopes to assuage this by buying stakes in the pan-African venture.

To achieve this, Director-General, Nasdra, Victor Borroffice, has made the request to government, citing the challenge posed in selling Nigcomsat-1's capacity because of perceived competition from the continental spread of Rascom.

However, Technology Times checks revealed further that Nigeria already participates in the Rascom initiative as the national operator, the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (Nitel), already holds 6.91 per cent stake in the consortium made up of 38 other African telecoms operators.

Additionally, Nigeria, through Nitel, also owns 7.33 per cent stake in the the South Atlantic Telecommu-nications/West African Sub-marine Cable (SAT3/WASC), the submarine optical fibre cable linking Africa with Europe and the rest of the world.

The RASCOM Project which has been endorsed by NEPAD as the only continental ICT project is billed to participate in the NEPAD e-School project, the Pan African e-Network and the e-Post Africa projects, among others.

The project which is implemeted by Frech company, Alcatel Alenia Space (formerly Alcatel Space), will deliver the communication satellite which has a 15-year life span and enable RascomStar-QAF to provide fixed voice, data telecommunications and Internet access as well as broadcasting satellite services to the whole African continent, with footprint extending to parts of Europe and of the Middle East.

Under an agreement with RASCOM, the Regional African Satellite Communi-cation Organization, had in 2000 formed and incorporated RascomStar-QAF as the project company for the pan-African satellite initiative representing the interests of 38 African telecommunications operators among other investors. Construction of he first satellite which started in 2003 is billed to be launched into orbit this year according to the company.

Nigeria had taken a US$200 loan from the China's EXIM Bank to part-finance the construction of her second satellite built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation at the cost of $311 million and launched into orbit from the Chinese soil in May, this year. Nigeria is also the first foreign government to buy Chinese satellite and its launch pad service to send its second satellite, the communications satellite codenamed Nigcomsat-1, into space.

However, indications emerged emerged weekend that Borrofice has launched a 'third term' bid as the Director-General of the nation's space agency, Nasdra. Also on a come-back bid is former Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Turner Isoun, with both men citing the continuity of projects they have initiated which they say is in its 'infancy' as a good reason to continue in office and midwife the implementation into maturity.

(SOURCE: This Day)