Isaac Damian of Chokola 1 village in traditional authority Tengani in Nsanje district and his family are speechless at what President Peter Mutharika and his government have done for them.
For the first time in their life, they have access to satellite television right from their house deep in Nsanje district.
“I can watch over 20 television channels from my house. These are on satellite television. My entire family is excited. We do not even envy those who stay in the city. We are better off here in the village with the coming of these decoders and dishes,” says who has already started enjoying the fruits of the project under Mutharika administration.
Damian says the coming of the satellite television has brought closeness and unity of the family as all members are now usually glued to the TV. The family usually takes meals together unlike in the past.
“Before this TV, my children used to go and watch video shows at the trading centre. They would usually ask for money. They would spend a lot of time there sometimes up to late hours in the night. The family was disjointed,” says Damian.
Damian is one of the Malawian households in 500 villages that are receiving free satellite decoders and dishes from the Chinese government to Malawi government under the “10 000 African Villages Satellite TV Project”.
Another beneficiary, Patuma Nanjanga, who is involved in small medium enterprise, says is excited to have the satellite TV because it has saved her resoures.
“I was planning to buy a TV set and now those resources are saved,” says Nanjanga.
She says watching TV after the day’s hard work is good for her health. She relaxes with her family and learns what is happening from other parts of the world.
“We are now part of the global community,” she said. The project has come as part of the Chinese Government’s plan on people to people bilateral aid
Three years ago, at the 6th Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg, President Xi Jinping undertook a commitment to implement a Satellite TV Project in 10 000 villages in 25 countries in Africa dubbed 10 000 African Villages Satellite TV Project.
Malawi has received 500 villages which are given Direct to Home television access. The project is implemented by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology on behalf of Government. The Chinese Government identified Star Times to connect the 500 villages by supplying them with decoders, satellite dishes and solar units to power the television sets.
Members of Parliament in Malawi, regardless of their political stand, were asked to identify villages from their respective constituencies to benefit from the project.
The 500 villages will each receive a 32’ TV screen, two projector decoders, three satellite dishes and three sets of solar panels and batteries to power the TV units.
Besides, the connected decoders would also be given free signal which would include three local channels of MBC,
Times TV and Zodiak TV among other general channels. In total people will be able to access 21 channels for free.
Twenty households have been identified in the beneficiary villages to receive free decoders and
satellite dishes. However, such households need to have electricity and television sets for them to be given the free decoders and dishes.
Member of Parliament for Dedza East Juliana Lunguzi welcomes the project and says it has come at the right time when people in rural areas need information.
“People in the rural areas look for information and so this project provides greater opportunity for them to get that information,” says Lunguzi who also asks for the sustainability of the project.
Zomba Chisi Member of Parliament Mark Botomani also hails government and President Peter Mutharika for the project.
“People in my constituency will spend their time usefully. They will be informed people and therefore make informed decisions and contribute to the socioeconomic development of the country. I thank President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika for accepting the project to come to Malawi,” says Botomani.
Member of Parliament for Nkhatabay West, Grace Chiumia also welcomes the project saying it will have great impact in her mountainous constituency where people seem to be land locked.
“They will be part of the global community. We thank the President for this initiative,” says Chiumia.
So far, installation has started from Nsanje and the exercise has almost finished there. It has brought great excitement among many people.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi feels proud of the project being implemented by his ministry which is also implementing the Access to Information Law as the two see to each other.
“The project is enabling rural people to enjoy rich and various satellite TV channels just like their counterparts in urban areas. Besides, the project will afford as many people as possible an opportunity to have access to as much information as possible thereby making the rural communities more enlightened and progressive as they effectively participate in the country’s
development and democracy,” says Dausi who also thanks the Chinese Government for the project..
He adds: “We are also happy honoured that His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika will be launching the project any time soon.”
The project has also come at the right time when Malawi just like other African countries are in a critical period of digital transformation. All countries are facing International Telecommunication Union June 2020 deadline to switch radio and television from analogue to digital platform.
“This project is a major initiative in media cooperation between China and Africa. It is designed to popularize digital television for rural areas in Africa thus of great significance for the deep coverage of radio and television, breaking information barriers, strengthening quality oriented education of the people, and promoting social progress,” said Star Times president Pang Xinxing
when he talked about the project to delegates from Africa and China at the fourth Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation in July this year.
With the rapid development of information technology, the global media environment and communication landscape are undergoing profound changes. African countries are actively promoting radio and television digitalization.
Despite the challenges. China commits itself further to help Africa attain full digitalization.
“We will continue to spare no effort to support media digitization and reconstruction in African countries and actively implement varying projects so as to see, for instance, digital TV services be provided to 10 000 villages in Africa,” said Minister of National Radio and Television Administration of Peoples’ Republic of China, Nie Chenxie.
Chenxie, who is also Deputy Head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China, was addressing delegates at the fourth Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation in Beijing in July this year.
Malawians are not lagging behind in this digital era.