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West Indian Ocean Cable Company Secures $20 million IFC Loan for Increased Broadband Connectivity Across Africa

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today announced a loan to the West Indian Ocean Cable Company Ltd (WIOCC) to help the telecoms infrastructure provider expand and improve affordable internet connectivity as it continues to serve over 30 countries in Africa.

The $20 million loan is part of IFC’s global $8 billion fast-track COVID-19 response facility, announced in March to help sustain economies and preserve jobs during the pandemic. IFC’s support will help WIOCC upgrade subsea capacity, including the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), and roll out terrestrial fiber optic networks across the region. EASSy is an undersea fiber optic cable system connecting countries in Eastern Africa to the rest of the world.

Pursuing our expansion will allow our company to leverage the opportunities created by the increasing demand for online services during the present crisis. It is also a demonstration of our dynamic partnership with IFC.

Chris Wood, WIOCC CEO

According to a report by IFC, only about 22 percent of Africa’s population has access to an internet connection, the lowest of any region in the world. The African Union, with support from the World Bank Group, has set the goal of connecting every individual, business, and government on the continent by 2030. IFC’s partnership with WIOCC is a step toward helping address the connectivity gap in Africa.

IFC’s partnership with WIOCC will help increase internet access across Africa, improving lives and allowing businesses to create and sustain potentially millions of jobs. With COVID-19 disrupting trade and business activity in an unprecedented fashion, building a strong internet infrastructure in Africa is more important than ever.

Linda Munyengeterwa, IFC’s Regional Industry Director for Infrastructure in the Middle East and Africa

WIOCC, a private company jointly owned by 14 African telecommunication operators, makes strategic investments in digital infrastructure to support reliable and scalable connectivity in Africa. WIOCC will be making additional investments in digital infrastructure in the immediate term in light of increased demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Loon and Vodacom Partner to Increase Rural Internet Access for Mozambicans

Loon and Vodacom partner to bring network access to previously uncovered populations via stratospheric internet balloons.

Alphabet’s Loon and Vodacom have signed a deal to use Loon’s balloon-powered internet solution to expand the Vodacom network in Mozambique. In terms of the agreement, Loon will help Vodacom provide service to un-served and under-served parts of the country with a network of floating cell phone towers that operate 20 kilometres above Earth. 

Using the Loon solution, Vodacom will expand mobile network access to Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces, two regions that have proven hard to cover in the past due to the vast and logistically challenging geographical areas, together with low population density. The Loon solution will provide a 4G service that supports Data, Voice, SMS and USSD, which will also enable mobile financial services. The service will be available to any Vodacom subscriber with a standard 4G-VoLTE enabled handset and SIM card. Users will not need to do anything special to connect to the service; they will connect just as they would to a normal cell tower. In fact, it’s unlikely that a user will know that they are connected to the service provided by a high altitude balloon, except for the fact that they may have a signal in a location where it previously did not exist.

Vodacom’s partnership with Loon is a perfect example of how technological innovation can connect the most rural communities in Africa. We are pleased to be part of this initiative in Mozambique, which is helping to bridge the digital divide. This is even more pertinent in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, where more Mozambicans will now have access to healthcare information through our Loon partnership. We look forward to forging similar partnerships and projects across the continent, as we ensure that no one is left behind when it comes to accessing the global digital economy.

Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub

Loon and Vodacom have been working collaboratively with Mozambican communications and aviation regulators, including Autoridade Reguladora das Comunicações de Moçambique (ARECOM) and the Institute for Civil Aviation of Mozambique (IACM), to obtain the necessary approvals to enable service in Mozambique. 

We’re extremely pleased to be partnering with Vodacom, one of Africa’s largest mobile network operators, to begin serving parts of Mozambique in the coming months. Vodacom has a big footprint in Southern Africa, and provides service to tens of millions of people across multiple countries every single day. We view this as the first step to a larger partnership that will allow us to serve more of those users throughout Africa.

Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth

The companies are grateful to have received approvals to start importing and installing the required ground infrastructure for Loon’s balloons to operate in the stratosphere above the country, and for Loon to provide service over the Vodacom network. 

Vodacom Mozambique Chief Technology Officer Pedro Rabacal says: “Vodacom Mozambique is excited and proud to be able to bring the latest technological innovation to some of the most remote areas of the country. In times such as these, it is more important than ever that we find ways to ensure that we expand our coverage and services and that our customers have access to critical hygiene and lifesaving information. This partnership with Loon offers a key solution that will significantly accelerate Vodacom’s 4G coverage to areas of Mozambique that have been challenging to service. Our aim is to expand and push to the edge of coverage so as to provide the same quality voice, data, sms and M-Pesa services to all Mozambicans”.

“This agreement symbolises yet another advance in the field of mobile communications technologies in the country and will allow greater connectivity for Mozambicans in any geography. With this action, we reaffirm our position as a company focused on innovation and, above all, on providing an increasingly better experience to our customers. We have ambitions to continue to grow with more modern and comprehensive solutions by improving the quality of our services and responding positively to the needs of Mozambicans.”

In the coming months, Loon and Vodacom will work together to continue installing terrestrial infrastructure, which will serve as the physical connection point for Loon’s balloons to Vodacom’s internet and core network. Loon will also begin flying balloons above Mozambique to learn the stratospheric wind patterns on which the balloons must navigate to remain above the service area.  Network integration testing is ongoing in order to ensure that this innovative solution works as intended.  Loon and Vodacom expect to begin providing service to users in the coming months.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Langa, Khayelitsha, and Gugulethu Residents Can Now Get Unlimited Free WiFi, Courtesy of Google

Cape Flats residents in Cape Town, South Africa now have access to unlimited free WiFi, courtesy of Google. Over 100 WiFi towers, called Google Stations, were launched by Google South Africa across Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River, and Philippi on Thursday.

Google Africa director Nitin Gajria said the areas represent some of the most under-served communities in the country, with high unemployment and crime rates. “By gaining access to information via the internet, we hope that people in these communities will get a more equal opportunity to learn and develop and live more empowered lives,” Gajria said.

Google said the WiFi will be accessible in residences, public areas, universities, transportation hubs and shopping malls. Alongside its WiFi rollout, Google also announced a $1 million (roughly R14.7 million) investment in South Africa to support the economic empowerment of girls and women.

Business Insider South Africa previously reported that Cell C is hoping to use lamp posts, bus stops, transport hubs and council-owned buildings in Cape Town as WiFi hotspots. The telecommunications company signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City of Cape Town last October, but no timelines for the project were given.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].