Ivory Coast is considering launching a satellite to combat security threats from pirates in the Gulf of Guinea and Islamist militants in the West African region, Telecommunications Minister Bruno Kone said. “We’ve decided to conduct a technical and economic study that will tell us the relevance of such a project,” Mr Kone said from Abidjan, the commercial capital. The West African nation is currently leasing capacity from commercial satellites and will calculate whether using its own could be cheaper, he said.
“Given our needs and how much it costs every year, wouldn’t it be more profitable for us to have our own satellite?” Mr Kone said, adding that the decision will probably be taken by the government this year. “It’s necessary to provide ourselves the means to follow” security threats more closely, he said. Pirates operate in the Gulf of Guinea, where Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and other nations produce about 3 million barrels of oil a day. Boko Haram, the Islamist group most prevalent in north-east Nigeria, has threatened to destabilise the region with attacks and kidnappings, while armed men on motorbikes ambushed a security-force station in southern Mali near the border of Ivory Coast on June 10, killing one officer.
Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of cocoa and second-largest grower of cashew nuts, could also use a satellite for corporate and government communications, agriculture and weather forecasts, Mr Kone said. The nation’s economy is expected to grow by 7.7 per cent this year, compared with an average of 4.5 per cent for sub-Saharan African countries, according to the International Monetary Fund. If there were free capacity, mobile-phone companies such as MTN Group and Orange SA, Ivory Coast’s two biggest wireless carriers, could also use the satellite, Mr Kone said.