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Why be racist about Ethiopia launching a space satellite?

Why be racist about Ethiopia launching a space satellite?

Bereket Gebru 04-16-17

One of the glaring realities of the world is that color, race and location matter substantially in determining the kind of life a nation or even an individual lives. Generally speaking, whites are more prosperous than blacks. Racially, Anglo-Saxons and Jews are at the summit of the world’s power and economic strength. Location wise, the Northern hemisphere is better off than the South or Africa, Latin America and Asia are the poorest continents while Europe and North America are the richest.

History shows us that these differences in fortunes have always been translated into a master and slave sort of relationship. However, contemporary efforts have managed to put that sort of attitude at the back of formal dealings between the two sides. As much as they can, the prosperous ethnic groups from Europe and America try to portray themselves as oblivious to racial divides.

They always preach that business is not racist in its nature. What they don’t tell us is that they are the ones in ownership of the businesses that run the world and they are as racist as any human being can be. This week’s news that America’s United Airlines dragged and punched a Chinese passenger off its plane when all passengers refused to give up their seats for additional crew members is a clear portrayal of the deep rooted racism in business. After all, business goes down to an individual dealing with a client. Out of hundreds of passengers in the plane, the white Police decided to physically assault a Chinese person. No matter what the company says about the situation, the inherent racist attitude cannot be covered up.

For the white people sitting by and protesting the manhandling of the Chinese Doctor, the fact that they have been allowed to protest while a person from another race is being beaten creates a sense of entitlement. The entitlement might not be a conscious process of assertion but a subtle subconscious take from the whole scene.

It might feel weird for an article to start with such a raw take on racism but this is exactly the feeling I had after reading an April 4, 2017 article by the Economist entitled: “Why Ethiopia is building a space program and why critics think it an odd use of scarce resources.” The article basically argues that poor countries like Ethiopia “do not need to own, build or launch satellites to reap the benefits” of the technology as they can buy them.

The title of the article states critics think it is an odd use of scarce resources for a country like Ethiopia to own or launch a satellite. However, the content does not even site a single critic who openly argues of the wasteful nature of owning or launching satellites. The only alleged expert in the entire article, the person from the University of Western Cape, argued that “a single communications satellite can broadcast to the entire continent.” It is the writer’s own perception that it is an odd use of scarce resources as it is not supported by anybody else’s opinion in the article.

Another major point raised by the writer is that poor countries like Ethiopia do not need to own and launch satellites as they can buy the services from someone else. That someone else is most likely going to be from one of the developed countries which the writer thinks are those entitled to have them. For a magazine from the ‘developed’ world to argue that poor countries do not need to own satellite technology as their demands are met by companies from the ‘developed world’ that already own it is so bluntly racist.

The argument put forth by the Economist is another case of the entitlement of the races and nations at the helm of economic, political and military power in the world. Considering Ethiopia aims to launch a Chinese built satellite, the magazine feels like it is concerned that China and not the Western governments are selling and deciding who gets satellite technology when. The immediate response for that sense of threat from the Chinese is the defamation of Chinese satellite technology as demonstrated in its statement that Nigeria’s failed in little over a year.

As concerned as the Economist appears to be about the use of Ethiopian resources by Ethiopians, we would like to remind it that we know more about our interests than anybody else claims to. I think it is time that you stop camouflaging the advancement of your sole interests as a selfless commitment to take good care of everyone at all corners of the world. We all know what has happened to countries that you decided to liberate from dictators through military occupation. We would just do fine by ourselves and we can decide who should be our partner for a specific project. You honestly don’t need to show us the ‘right’ way.

While specifying the purpose of Ethiopia’s planned satellite, the magazine states that it is to monitor crops and weather and “doubtless to spy on neighbors, too.” We all know of the extent of espionage that the rich countries of the world conduct. The countries that the magazine stands in support of spy on the whole world and not just their neighbors. They even spy on their own citizens. Whenever they launch a satellite, however, it is for the advancement of humanity in general and a mere plan by a poor country is to spy on its neighbors. The double standards that we witness in almost every aspect of international economics and politics are once again derived from the underlying belief that no two races should be treated equally. The feeling of superiority and arrogance actually blind them from understanding their conducts and opinions for what they are – racist.

The article argues that satellite ownership and launch is much more expensive than the option to buy their services. However, that might not be the full truth when one considers the amount paid by poor countries to satellite service providers. The article states that Nigeria spent $300 million on a Chinese communication satellite before it failed in short while. It also goes on to state that the annual revenue of its successor was a measly $3.3 million.

Chairman of the Ethiopian Space Academy, Tefera Waluwa, recently explained in an interview that the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, the national TV, alone pays millions of dollars a year for satellite service providers. Considering other Ethiopian institutions also buy satellite service, the expense would make up a considerable section of the price of a satellite. In cases like the Nigerian satellite making $3.3 million a year, it is not just the net gains that count but the expenses saved by having the satellite in the first place. Ethiopia can shell out three or four years of satellite service payments at once and get its own satellite. I think that would be more significant than the monetary worth of the satellite as the trend of breaking the dependency and acquisition of the technology would mean a lot more.


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