Several months ago, on a bus ride spanning the provinces of southern Mozambique, I passed a seemingly infinite number of advertisements painted on the walls of homes and stores when I suddenly passed one that I had not seen before – a hand-painted advertisement featuring Chinese and Mozambican flags. Curious as to why the flags were painted together on that wall in a rural area outside of Maputo, I initially regretted not getting off the bus to investigate. However, I quickly realized I would pass the flags again and again and again over the next seven hours. I would eventually return to conduct interviews and now recognize the image as the conspicuous symbol for the Chinese government-financed “Access to Satellite TV for 10,000 African Villages” project.
The “10,000 Villages” project was born during the 2015 Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that took place in Johannesburg. President Xi Jinping announced a number of priorities for Chinese engagement on the continent, one of which included tackling the “digital divide” between rural and urban areas by providing digital TV access for 10,000 rural communities across 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In order to realize this ambitious goal, the Chinese government contracted StarTimes, the Beijing-based private pay-TV platform with an estimated 33 million customers in 37 African countries to implement the project.
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