By David Nnachi
It’s a short term win for Nigeria and a long term for China as usual. Not only does Nigeria get to save $500m (which is a lot of money), they also get technology infrastructure which would boost innovation and inevitably the economy.
The more interesting question is of what benefit is this to China, why are they willing to give away $550m?
There’s a popular saying that Data is the new Oil and there’s a reason why. The world’s future belongs to countries that can develop A.I, but A.I is nothing without data.
Well think of satellites as ‘pimped up’ wifi routers. Any data, be it internet browsing or telemetric equipments packets routed through the satellite devices can be mined and analysed by China since they’d also man the satellite stations. Don’t forget western intelligence agencies already tap underwater internet fibre optics cables for data, so its nothing new. So with a satellite data gateway, algorithms can be run against it to predict & analyse population behaviour, market direction and political sentiment. Even so data can also be manipulated to drive behavioural change or for damage control.
An example of this is what it called ‘sentiment analysis’ used by facebook (the biggest global data collector of all) and other free online services to analyse preferences. This together with A.I is what helps allows them push advertising or information that could more accurately persuade you to buy or enforce a social or political opinion. This is the price you pay for using their service for free. It’s the age of communication warfare and every nation is playing it.
Another would be subversion. During the Arab spring social media posts sparked and catalysed protest that toppled a Arab or Islamic governments. These events would or could have been intentionally accelerated or mitigated if you had central control over data flow and could potentially accelerate or minimise social media posts, depending on what your goals or interests are. Instead of shutting down the internet nationwide as most governments do, during a mass protest or uprising, what if you could just hide all the pro-rebellion posts shared and show only pro-government ones.
A natural response would be to panic, but this already happens on a large scale with or without Nigeria’s consent. Think about the fact that in 10 to 20 years, any Nigerian governor or president would have willingly submitted their whole interests, preferences or darkest secrets to facebook via messenger or private chat between acquaintances. These classified data is shared and accessible to the U.S government and other western nations. This is partly why China and Russia both maintain and encourage their own social media platforms to their citizen. Cos what might seem harmless at the moment could become a big risk for national security. Today’s social media creates potential opportunity for political blackmail, defamation or making sure people with predictable bias against certain interests can be identified and sabotaged ahead of time. Such is the nature of applied predictive intelligence.
Such strategic advantage is worth so much leverage. Something most governments can barely comprehend or do anything to stop.
Nigerian leaders as it stands, may not necessarily know or can’t predict whose interests align or will align with theirs in the oncoming years. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to yield to China, who’s predicted to maintain rising and steady economic growth.
I’ve always said, at least the Chinese government understands the principle of giving before you take. That’s a symbiotic and very welcome foreign policy in geopolitics, especially in a nationalistic self serving world. China’s national advantage over nations is driven and maintained by making sure they’re working harder and being more innovative. Which means unlike other world powers, they don’t see Nigeria’s national development as a risk to their dominance. China’s communist manifesto proposes spreading Chinese influence and prosperity towards equal development and prosperity for all, as opposed to other powers before China whose superiority depended on other nations remaining in the stone age while they grow. Their education industry (international students), jobs (economic migration) and migration revenue relies on the existing state of things.
So hoarding technological advancements like satellites, or rail transport engineering has been one of the ways western nations maintained national advantage over others until China became an economic power. Nevertheless China knows that they could learn and grow faster (by mining Nigeria’s data) from collective growth. Adding to their intelligence, helping them stay better or ahead of everyone.
I might be missing some aspects of the cons but I kinda prefer that model, as some other nations outrightly bully resources (oil or data) out of you. Some not so powerful ones are more parasitic. Subtly stealing it from you but give nothing back or even sabotage you in the process. A practice that creates the toxic global economies we live in, stifling diplomatic engagement and collaboration, against everyones interests.
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