France’s Airbus Defence and Space appears to have beaten China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) in a bid to provide an Earth observation satellite for the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the West African nation that was formerly a French colony.
Ivory Coast has been seeking its first satellite to monitor its maritime borders, help tackle terrorism, and obtain better meteorological data. Once in orbit, its satellite will be connected to a fibre optic network that is already in place.
Airbus Defence and Space plans to deliver the satellite to Ivory Coast by 2020.
The agreement was approved by Alassane Ouattara, the President of the Ivory Coast, in mid-June 2018. The deputy president, Daniel Kablan Duncan, was sent to the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France, to finalise it.
On paper, this agreement ends the Ivorian ambitions of the China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC). For several years, CGWIC, which enjoyed the support of the current prime minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, especially when he held the influential position of presidential chief of staff, has been seeking to sell its satellites to the Ivory Coast.
Despite these Chinese ambitions, the French had moved early to try to successfully conclude the deal. Back in 2015, studies on the launch of an Ivorian satellite were entrusted to the French firm Sat Conseil. At the same time, Daniel Kablan Duncan was negotiating with Airbus to purchase military helicopters and surveillance drones for the country.