BEIJING – One of China’s largest Pay TV firms is looking to expand its presence in Africa as the continent embraces digital migration.
StarTimes, launched in Africa in 2002 with Rwanda as its first stop, now has seven million Pay TV subscribers in at least 10 African countries.
Guo Ziqi, the firm’s vice president announced on Friday that the firm had a goal to expand to reach 30 million subscribers in 30 African countries in Africa by 2018.
“Our goal is to help see that every African family has access to TV, which has been expensive,” Ziqi (pictured below) told journalists during a media tour of the firm’s head offices in China’s capital, Beijing.
StarTimes was established in 1998 and until 2000 was a broadcast and TV content provider operating in China, before moving to overseas markets.
In Africa, StarTimes has operations in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Republic of central Africa, guinea and Kenya.
Ziqi says the company struggled to gain foothold of the market in Africa during its initial years, due to an unfriendly business climate.
“Most countries were still relying on analogue transmission, the signal was bad and prices were unaffordable,” she observes.
She says besides expanding its reach in Africa, StarTimes is seeking to help improve access to TV and the continent’s digitization drive.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and StarTimes president Pang Xinxin seen in this framed photo dated 2015
The subscriber base for most Pay TV firms has grown rapidly in recent years as more countries shift from analogue to digital transmission.
With over seven million subscribers at home, Ziqi reveals that her firm’s expansion to new markets in Africa and across the globe could bring the company’s valuation to $10b.
StarTimes is one of China’s most successful home-grown companies and is listed among the country’s top 100 technology and science innovation-oriented enterprises.
The building that houses the company’s head offices is an architectural marvel, located in the Beijing Economic Development Area.
President Yoweri Museveni (pictured below: top row, third from left) is one of the African dignitaries to have visited the large six-floor building that houses studio, broadcast control, media, research and translation centers.
A photo of former Prime Minister and 2016 presidential candidate, Amama Mbabazi shaking hands with StarTimes Group Chairman and President, Pang Xinxing, appears on the wall of fame..
Inside the towering building, the transmission of 440 programmes broadcast across Africa is monitored in real time by a team of experts.
Apart from TV and broadcast, the firm’s core business is in systems integration, signal transmission, mobile TV service and Internet business platforms.
The research and development area
The production studios
Ziqi says the firm is also open to collaboration with African entities to expand its cache of local content programs, including programs for children and agriculture.
She also says the firm adopted an approach that ensures nationals in the countries of operation form the core staff.
The company employs over 4,000 employees in Africa and 85% of them are natives of the countries.
StarTimes plans to establish a large complex in neighbouring Kenya that will serve as its regional (African) head office.
Under a new partnership announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the Forum on China Africa Cooperation summit in December last year, China will provide satellite TV reception to 10,000 African villages.
Special economic development zone
Tablets and phones on display
YOU’RE WELCOME: At the reception inside the StarTimes head office in Beijing
The guest dining hall
YOURS TRULY: And here, the writer poses in front of a plaque of Uganda