NSD partners in bitter row over choice of satellite as Brussels deadline nears

DTH Scandinavia

By David South

Financial Times New Media Markets (London, UK), September 21, 1995

The controversial Nordic Satellite Distribution consortium is in danger of collapsing because of a row between two of its three big shareholders.

The row, between Swedish programmer Kinnevik and Norwegian telephone company Telenor, threatens the chances of the consortium coming up with a restructuring that will win acceptance from European Commission competition officials.

NSD has been trying to turn the 1 degree West orbital position – home to the Thor and TV Sat-2 satellites – into Scandinavia’s “hot bird” position. But Kinnevik also plans to take a substantial slice of capacity on the Swedish Space Corporation’s planned digital satellite Sirius-2, at 5 degrees East. Telenor is furious.

It is demanding that Kinnevik drop the plan and also give up its existing transponders at the 5 degrees East position, on the Tele-X and Sirius-1 satellites. Kinnevik already plans to give up its Astra transponders, to the relief of Telenor.

Kinnevik is buying capacity on the rival system simply as a way of hedging its bets. Sirius-2, with 16 transponders offering a mix of digital and analogue channels for the Scandinavian market, could become a powerful satellite and Kinnevik is worried that a strong rival service might be developed on it. The company is thought to be negotiating for six of the 16 transponders (another 16 transponders are aimed at the rest of Europe).

Per Bendix, chairman of the NSD, said that the group could continue without Kinnevik, although it would be difficult to find another company with such large pockets.

He downplayed the rows between the shareholders: “Of course, there are tensions between Kinnevik and Telenor. You can’t imagine a process like this, a complicated business deal, without some frictions which create some warmth. None of the partners can stop this initiative, it has gained too much momentum.”

TeleDanmark, the third member of NSD, has tried to play a mediating role between Telenor and Kinnevik.

One source close to the consortium said: “Kinnevik is definitely interested in investigating other satellite operators for the digital future. The company is known for doing exactly as it pleases, which clashes with Telenor which is trying to get 1 degree West into shape.”

Kinnevik and Telenor have clashed repeatedly over Kinnevik’s refusal to give up the 5 degrees East position, where it transmits five channels on Sirius. The issue has been exacerbated for Telenor by the fact that the mostly unencrypted Sirius/Tele-X package has achieved a better penetration than the encrypted Thor package.

The two companies have also been at loggerheads over the restructuring of the consortium, forced upon it by the European Commission.

Last July, competition commissioner Karel Van Miert ruled that NSD, which was planned as a vertically-integrated company providing programming, subscriber management and satellite capacity, was anti-competitive.

He ruled that NSD would “create or strengthen a permanent dominant position as a result of which effective competition would be significantly impeded” in the Nordic market for satellite broadcasting. It would dominate the provision of satellite transponders in Scandinavia, cable television in Denmark and direct-to-home pay-television distribution.

Bendix, with the backing of Telenor, has been trying to broaden the shareholder base by bringing in other Scandinavian programmers. But Kinnevik opposes the move because it does not think that it will meet Brussels’ concerns. It also does not want to play second fiddle to other programmers.

The shareholders have looked at other options, including one of splitting NSD into separate companies covering transponder-leasing, subscriber management and programming. The companies could have different ownership. Pele Tornberg, Kinnevik’s deputy managing director, would not say what alternative plan Kinnevik is proposing.

NSD has until next month to present Brussels with a revised shareholding structure.

Helsinki Media, the Finnish broadcaster, has rejected an approach to rejoin NSD, which it left in 1994 in a row over Kinnevik’s influence. President Tabio Kallioja said that the company maintained its view that NSD gave Kinnevik a stranglehold on the allocation of satellite capacity to other programmers. He added that Helsinki Media was interested in the plans for digital satellite television being developed by NetHold and by Telia Media, owned by the Swedish PTT, Telia.

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From Special Report: NMM (New Media Markets) Spotlight On The Emergence Of Satellite Porn Channels In The UK

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Prisons With Green Solutions

An ingenious solution is helping Rwanda reduce the cost of running its bursting prisons, while improving conditions for the prisoners and helping protect the environment.

The country’s prison population soared to a peak of 120,000 suspects awaiting trial for their role in the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. The traditional court system, gacaca, is being used for national reconciliation, but the process is slow and costly for a country where 90 per cent of the population exist on subsistence agriculture, and where food production has dropped below 70 per cent of the levels needed for self-sufficiency (USAID).

But thanks to enormous, bee-hive shaped human manure digesters, a steady supply of biogas is on tap for cooking and lighting at prisons – the first country in Africa to do this. Five of the country’s largest prisons – two at Gitarama and one each in Butare, Kigali and Cyangugu – now have biogas plants producing 50 per cent of the gas needed to cook for prisoners. It has also saved half of each prison’s US $44,000 a year firewood costs. The money saved is being ploughed back into renovations to the prisons to improve conditions, and to provide more services like healthcare.

Biogas is produced from the fermentation of household or agricultural waste or animal or human feces, and has become a viable alternative when traditional gas sources become more expensive. The waste is placed in a 150 cubic meter beehive-shaped digester and fermented until a gas is produced. According to lead engineer on the project, Ainea Kimaro, 100 cubic meters of waste is turned into 50 cubic meters of fuel by bacteria devouring the manure in just four weeks.

The digesters are a project of the Kigali Institute of Sciences, Technology and Management ‘s Center for Innovations and Technology Transfer.

“Biogas kills two birds with one stone,” Kimaro told the BBC. It gets rid of all the human waste and helps cover the enormous costs of feeding so many prisoners. Prior to the digesters, the quantity of human waste was a real problem: it was flooding down hillsides and leaking into rivers and lakes.

A school, the Lycee de Kigali , also has a digester. “The methane gas is used to cook for 400 students and for operating Bunsen burners in the school laboratories”, Kimaro said.

Many would think this a smelly affair, but in fact the whole process isn’t that pungent. Most of the digester is underground and the gas produced burns a clean, blue smokeless flame. It is much cleaner than the smoke from firewood. The remaining sludgy residue is used as an odourless compost for soil. This is used in the prison gardens to grow maize, mangos, bananas and tomatoes – all of which ends up back on the prisoner’s plates, improving the quality of their nutrition.

“The firewood savings are excellent – they really make a difference for us,” a Cyangugu prison warden said, adding that the odour-free compost had done wonders for the prison gardens. “Look at all these bananas! This fertiliser really is the best,” he said to the BBC.

In Uganda, human urine and feces are being mixed with banana peels, algae, water hyacinth and poultry droppings to make biogas. In Uganda’s rural Mukono district, biogas is used for cooking, lighting pressure lamps and to power engines. The slurry left over is then used to fertilise the soil. For Ugandans, most of whom are rural dwellers, electricity is rare and petrol to run generators and refrigeration units is expensive.

“It keeps the environment free of organic wastes, is convenient, time-saving and reduces smoke-related illnesses often associated with the use of firewood,” said Patrick Nalere, country director of the Heifer Project International, an American NGO which shares livestock and knowledge to reduce poverty. “If the majority of Ugandans adopted biogas, we would preserve our biodiversity. People should exploit decomposing raw materials, which are free. Therefore, no monthly power tariffs.”

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: February 2008

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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Djibouti Re-shapes Itself as African Trade Hub

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions


Trade hubs can prove to be decisive in boosting regional growth. Trade hubs are places where commerce congregates, for a mix of geographical, cultural and economic reasons. Like a bicycle wheel, a trade hub sits at the centre as the spokes of trade routes travel towards it. Throughout history, trade hubs have emerged, from the outposts of the Silk Route running through Asia and Central Asia to the Hanseatic League cities of Northern Europe in the Middle Ages.

Trade is critical to increasing prosperity, and the more efficient trade becomes – and the greater the variety of goods and affordable prices – the higher the standard of living for the nations doing the trading.

With South-South trade the great economic success story of the past decade, new trade hubs are emerging. World Trade Organization (WTO) ( figures show South-South trade accounted for 16.4 percent of the US $14 trillion in total world exports in 2007, up from 11.5 percent in 2000. While the global economic crisis has slowed things down, the overall trend is firmly established.

One country hoping to become a key 21st century trade hub is the tiny African nation of Djibouti, which sits strategically between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It is surrounded by the nations of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and is across the Bab al Mandab Strait from Yemen.

It is at the nexus of Africa and Asia. Some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world float by the country’s coastline. Much of the oil shipped to Europe and the United States passes by.

“Djibouti is perfectly positioned to become a services and logistics hub,” said Jerome Martins Oliveira, chief executive officer of Djibouti port, operated by a subsidiary of Dubai World.

PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) (, which recently published its third Transportation & Logistics 2030 Report, predicts that global trade hubs and routes will shift to emerging markets within the next 20 years.

“Trade volumes will move towards emerging markets such as Africa or Asia and competition for future large transport contracts will be determined within the next few years,” said Akhter Moosa, PwC’s South African Transport and Logistics Leader.

This underscores the growing importance of emerging markets. The majority of global trade is forecast to shift to emerging markets by 2030. As the trade shifts, so new trade routes emerge. PwC sees strong links between Asia and Africa and Asia and South America, as well as trade within Asia, transforming global supply chains.

Hot spots for trade are showing impressive growth. Trade between Asia and the former Soviet states grows at 42 percent a year. The volume of trade between South America and Africa is growing by double digits.

“China already owns seven of the world’s twenty largest ports,” said Christopher Siewierski, associate director in Corporate Finance at PwC. “India, Russia and South Africa are also expected to play a significant role as logistics giants.”

Respondents to the Transportation & Logistics 2030 Report
( ) believe it is unlikely that companies from emerging countries will seek further growth in the developed European and North American markets. Instead, they will concentrate on domestic markets and the strong growing neighbouring countries.

All of this is good news for Djibouti. At present, the population of Djibouti
( is small at around 864,202 people (2009 World Bank).

Ancient Djibouti traded hides and skins for the perfumes of Egypt, India and China: a classic South-South trade heritage. Djibouti became a French colony and gained its independence from France in 1977.

The geography is harsh: a rocky semi desert of plateaus and highlands. Djibouti has few resources, apart from its large salt reserves – the country has a long history of salt mining. Djibouti must depend on foreign assistance – or innovative trade.

Djibouti has to be clever in increasing income opportunities: the country has an estimated unemployment rate of between 40 and 50 percent. The country is heavily dependent on imports for food and fuel, and over the past decade has experienced recession – in the wake of a 1991 to 1994 civil war – and a growing population.

For years, the tiny state was overlooked and development had proceeded at a slow pace. But now investment from Dubai is pouring in to upgrade the port to make it a regional gateway.

The Djibouti Free Zone ( was set up in the wake of the country being designated a free-export processing zone in 1995. In practice, this means a company or business working to export products can be designated as an Export Processing Company (EPC).

It was created to re-shape the landscape in Africa when it comes to trade. Push out the red tape, and bring efficiency and plenty of services: the prime habitat for business to flourish free of restrictions. Prospective businesses can find modern offices, distribution, storage and light manufacturing facilities.

Djibouti provides services as both a transit port for the region and an international trans shipment and refuelling center.

And even more ambitious plans are afoot: a multi-billion dollar, 29-kilometre bridge across the Red Sea has been proposed. The Bridge of the Horns ( will link Djibouti with Yemen and two new cities will be built on either side of the bridge. The new Noor City on the Djibouti side will become the “financial, educational, and medical hub of Africa” according to its developers.

Elsewhere, the United States is funding and operating four regional trade and competiveness hubs in sub-Saharan Africa. They aim to assist, enhance and broaden the flow of trade between the United States and the region, both inside and outside the terms of the historic African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) ( The four trade hubs — located in Ghana, Senegal, Botswana and Kenya — provide information and technical expertise to enhance and expand bilateral trade between the United States and Africa.


  • Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa: Is a regional organisation for the ports and maritime sector in Eastern and Southern Africa. It seeks to promote and nurture best practices among member ports by creating an enabling environment for exchange of information and capacity building to contribute to the economic development of the region. Website:
  • Dubai World: Global holding company Dubai World “focuses on the strategic growth areas of Transport & Logistics, Drydocks & Maritime, Urban Development, Investment & Financial Services. Our portfolio contains some of the world’s leading companies in their industries, including Drydocks World, Economic Zones World, Istithmar World, Nakheel and majority ownership of DP World.” Website:
  • A Financial Times report on Africa-China trade in 2010. Website:
  • West Africa Trade Hub: The USAID West Africa Trade Hub uses a market-driven approach to increase exports from the region – making West Africa competitive in world markets. The Trade Hub provides direct assistance to hundreds of companies in six value chains. That work is complemented by teams tackling problems in transportation, telecommunications, access to finance and business environment that make it difficult for West African companies to compete. Website:
  • Biz Africa’s Leading Daily Retail News: Where the action is on Africa’s fast-growing retail markets. Website:

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Blue Sky Bulletin

Editor: David South

First launched in 1997, Blue Sky Bulletin was the monthly newsletter for the United Nations mission in Mongolia.

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