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Learning English - Words in the News
14 May, 2007 - Published 13:33 GMT
China launches Nigerian satellite
A satellite in space

China has successfully launched a communications satellite for Nigeria. The official Xinhua newsagency says it's the first time that a foreign buyer has purchased both the Chinese satellite and its launching service. But what does this mean for Nigeria? This report from Alex Last.

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This satellite is a sign of the growing trade links between Africa and the East. It was built and launched by China which outbid twenty-one other rivals to get the contract, worth over three hundred million dollars.

The aim of the satellite is to improve phone and internet links across the country and the wider region. Nigeria has been experiencing a communications revolution. Only a few years ago there were no mobile phones, landlines barely worked and there was no internet - so doing business, for example, was a logistical nightmare. Everything had to be done face to face. But mobile phones and now internet have arrived and Nigeria, with a population of a hundred and forty million, is one of the fastest growing mobile phone markets in Africa and the world.

Having a space programme is also symbolic of how Nigeria wants to be seen as a growing player on the world stage. Four years ago, the country became the third African nation, after South Africa and Algeria, to have a presence in space with the launch of an observation satellite.

But the space programme is not without its critics, especially in a country where the majority live in poverty and where the internet can be made redundant by the simple fact that electricity is sporadic at best. Though some say the government should rather spend all this money on power, job creation and basic public services.


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offered more money than anyone else

the wider region
other African countries

a communications revolution
a significant change in the products and tools used by people to talk to or share information with other people

telephones that are connected to other telephones using wires (unlike, for example, mobile phones)

a logistical nightmare
very, very difficult to provide the necessary materials and equipment

face to face
literally,to meet someone in the same (real) location rather than, for example, talking to someone using a telephone or over the internet

a growing player on the world stage
a country that is becoming recognised as an important country by other countries

an observation satellite
a satellite used to take pictures of the earth or space

available only occasionally

at best
the most positive way of thinking about a bad or difficult situation (so, here, the fact that electricity is only available occasionally is a positive thing only because, most of the time, it is not available at all)

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