Nigeria: Builders Scramble for Nation's Second Satellite Contract

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Different satellite builders and service providers across the world are at the moment polishing their briefcases ready to storm Nigeria to slug it out for who grabs the contract to build the country's second communications satellite.

According to reliable sources, the process of getting the second and possibly third satellites off ground would begin immediately after the launch of NigComSat-1R later in the year. NigComSat-1R is the replacement of Nigeria's communications satellite, NigComSat-1, which developed faults and was subsequently de-orbited in November 2008, 18 months after it was launched.

After attempts by NigComSat engineers and the satellite manufacturer, China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) failed to rescue the satellite, China Wall settled for a replacement, resulting in the NigComSat-1R which is reported to be nearing completion and ready to launch by the fourth quarter of this year.

This makes the Nigerian communications satellite contract a plum for world renowned satellite builders and indeed, at the recently concluded Satellite Communications, SATCOM Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, interest was high among satellite builders, service providers and ancillary operators as to who will get the contract. Most of the arguments on why companies other than the China Great Wall should secure the contract included that Chinese companies were allegedly amateurs in satellite business.

However, Nigerian officials including engineers, who attended the event, did not buy any of the arguments but rather maintained that the major edge to securing the contract was a superior technology transfer business policy. Whilst stressing he had no influence over the contract, NCC’s Engr Bashir Gwandu said the Nigerian government was highly interested in those that can transfer satellite technology knowledge to the army of Nigerian engineers so that they can become satellite builders and launchers in the future.

According to Gwandu, "it's unfortunate that most of you signifying interest do not have business models that support transfer of technology and Nigeria does not have the leisure of spending huge sums of money to build satellites when her engineers can do little or nothing if anything goes wrong in it. "If you are not interested in taking Nigerian engineers through the length and breadth of what it takes to do what you are doing, sorry, we may not be interested in your offer.