The first African telecommunications satellite has been put into orbit by an Ariane Five rocket.

The satellite will provide phone, Internet and television service to rural parts of the African continent for the next 15 years.

Dignitaries from several African countries gathered at the European Space Agency's facility near Kourou, French Guiana to watch Friday's launch.

European firm Thales Alenia Space built the satellite for the Regional African Satellite Communications Organization (RASCOM), a private company representing 45 African nations.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.