(Xinhua) -- Cameroonian Francis Tchiegue’s Beijing
life is becoming even busier, due to what he calls his
As well as filming TV shows such as
“Francis Tells Tales” and “Francis’ Tricks for Chinese” at
StarTimes headquarters in the city, Tchiegue also revises
multilingual scripts and drafts.
Tchiegue has lived in China for more
than a decade. In 2003, he won a scholarship to pursue his Ph.D.
degree in Beijing in an exchange program sponsored by China and
As a huge fan of Chinese culture, he
speaks Chinese fluently and has become a TV celebrity adored by
Six months ago, Tchiegue started to
work full-time as a host and consultant in StarTimes, one of the
largest TV service providers in Africa, which is based in
“I came to China to see what I can do
for media and cultural exchanges between China and Africa, and
StarTimes has been dedicated to this kind of work for years and
years. That is why I chose to work here,” said Tchiegue. “It is
“To provide affordable and excellent
digital TV services for every African family”—this is the goal
that StarTimes set in 2002, which distinguished it from any
other television operators in Africa back then.
Now this goal has taken its root in
the continent and won broad recognition from the public and
So far, StarTimes has registered and
set up subsidiaries to provide digital TV services for nearly 20
million users in over 30 African countries, including Rwanda,
Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa.
Just as its name denotes, StarTimes is
a rising star on the continent, presenting images of the world
to households across Africa.
The scene of a family gathered in
front of the television enjoying a time together is now more and
more common in African countries.
THE GAME-CHANGER FROM CHINA
In 2002, when Pang Xinxing, founder of
StarTimes, and his team traveled to Africa to assess the market,
they were surprised to find that opportunities there were even
larger than those in European and American markets.
After consideration, they decided to
compete in the digital TV market.
“At that time, digital TV services
were a luxury enjoyed by only a small group of people,” said
Pang, the initial installation fee in many African countries was
as high as 200 U.S. dollars and the service cost around 50 to
over 100 U.S. dollars per month.
The root cause was monopoly. Big
corporations divided and dominated the African market, crushing
those who challenged them.
However, when StarTimes arrived they
changed the game.
Acting on the philosophy of serving
the people through business, StarTimes’ service price was
reasonable for most ordinary families. The initial installation
cost 10 U.S. dollars and the minimum TV package with over 10
channels was charged at 1 U.S. dollar per month.
The game-changing business model was
underpinned by its system of technology.
Since 2008, StarTimes has seized the
chance to boost investment in TV technology and built four basic
networks including signal relay, direct broadcast satellite,
digital terrestrial TV transmission and online video.
StarTimes’ TV signal now covers the
entire African continent.
Over 480 programs in 11 languages from
local stations to China’s mainstream media, world-famous
channels and StarTimes originals are broadcast via the platform,
with topics ranging from news, sports, and movies to fashion
Currently, StarTimes is striving to
promote its digital TV services in rural areas in Africa, as
part of its effort to carry out the “Access to Satellite TV for
10,000 African Villages” project initiated by China in 2015.
It is a challenging job, but for many
African people, it is an amazing gift and a gateway to the
Joseph Runyenje Lopeyok, an ardent
soccer fan, lives in Likii village in the central Kenyan county
of Laikipia. He was able to watch the World Cup tournament this
year thanks to clear signals guaranteed by the StarTimes decoder
installed at his backyard.
“Even my wife and daughters who are
not normally soccer fans are now enticed by the game,” Lopeyok
“A NATURAL CONNECTION”
The first time he traveled to Africa,
Pang felt a kind of “natural connection between himself and the
“Once I asked an African leader what
the most complex human relationship in the world was, and he
said without a second thought: that between mother-in-law and
daughter-in-law,” Pang said, which is an answer echoed in
Chinese culture and countless TV shows.
That is also part of the reason why
African voice actors and actresses have few cultural barriers in
dubbing Chinese TV serials, especially family dramas.
“Compared to many other foreigners,
African students are more gifted in learning Chinese, either in
terms of pronunciation or comprehension of the language,” said
The connection between Chinese and
Africans inspires StarTimes to move forward.
On its 43 original channels, self-made
dramas, kung fu shows, dubbing competitions have all been
popular among African audience.
To make more Chinese TV shows
accessible to African audiences in rural and suburban areas,
StarTimes also sent out TV caravans to provide broadcast
Wherever the caravans went, children
would chase after them and dance to the music they played, and
villagers would sit on the chairs they brought with them,
happily waiting for the show to begin.
China has been adhering to the
principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith
in its African policy. In Pang’s view, the actual benefits
African people can gain from such cooperation are fundamental to
StarTimes is expanding and pacing up
its localization year by year. So far there are over 4,000
employees in Africa, with local employees making up more than 95
Meanwhile, there are over 7,000
StarTimes agents across Africa, which have generated around
“Any company, if it wants to really
take root in Africa, should make an effort to boost social and
human development in Africa, and creating more jobs as part of
its social responsibility,” said Pang.
China-Africa relations have reached a
stage of growth unmatched in history.
While more and more Chinese visiting
Africa, an increasing number of Africans are choosing China as
their destination to work and live.
Bolabola Joelle Zita from Gabon has
worked as a fashion host and voice actress in StarTimes’s
Beijing headquarters for seventeen months.
Back in her hometown, Zita was a
government employee with a dream to work in the fashion
“I appreciate the opportunity and
environment that StarTimes has offered to help me grow as a TV
host. It is a company that is willing to teach and listen to
you,” Zita said.
Now Zita’s make-up show S-Belle is
broadcast to African audiences via StarTimes channels, even
those in remote and small villages.
“I never get bored or tired, because I
am doing what I love. TV shows give me a better understanding of
the different cultures in Africa and the world,” Zita said,
adding “It is amazing, isn’t it—getting to know more about
Africa in China.”
Sitting just next to Zita, Brice
Icigumije from Burundi has lived in Beijing for a year and he
works on a TV show about movies called “100 Cine.”
“I try to give African audiences a
glimpse of the latest movies from across the world, and
encourage them to go to the cinema,” Icigumije said with a
smile, “this is a job that I feel passionate about.”
As the 2018 Beijing Summit of the
Forum on China-Africa Cooperation draws near, Tchiegue has also
been helping African embassies in China with receptions and
“Many of my friends didn’t understand
why I went to China rather than European or American countries,
but now they are all happy for me because I have finally found
something I enjoy doing, which is not about money,” he said.
“I hope, through the TV shows we make
together, Chinese can get closer to the real Africa and Africans
to the real China,” Tchiegue said.
Now Tchiegue is looking forward to the
upcoming people-to-people and cultural exchange events expected
to be announced at the summit.
“I will definitely participate in
these events,” he said. “It is a kind of priceless happiness.”