China has opened its first overseas centre to promote its Beidou satellite navigation system (BDS) in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, on 10 April 2018.
The China-Arab States BDS/GNSS Centre has been created as a pilot programme between China and the Arab Information and Communication Technology Organization (AICTO), also headquartered in Tunisia, which is an Arab regional organisation under the auspices of the League of Arab States (known as the Arab League). The China-Arab States BDS/GNSS Centre will promote the global capabilities and applications of Beidou, according to Ran Chengqi, the director of the China Satellite Navigation Office, at the opening of the centre in Tunis.
“The center could serve as both a window to showcase the BDS, and a platform for promoting international exchanges and cooperation,” Ran said.
AICTO will “intensify its cooperation with China in the field of satellite navigation to boost technological advance and economic development in the region,” said Mohamed Ben Amor, Secretary-General of AICTO, who also declared that the BDS centre to be a “unique” scientific and technology resource for the Arab world.
Khalil Amiri, Tunisia’s Secretary of State for Scientific Research, told reporters that the Tunis BDS centre will help train satellite navigation specialists and help develop digital economies across the Arab region in North Africa and the Middle East.
“We are working closely with China to effectively access and develop win-win database services via BeiDou and other satellites for various uses,” Amiri said.
The Beidou satellite navigation system is being promoted as an integral part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – its signature infrastructure development project across Eurasia, the Indian Ocean, and Africa. A large number of Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa are participating in the BRI and are also developing their satellite-based infrastructure.