U.S. Development Finance Institution the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) signs a mandate letter to begin financing discussions with Mawingu Networks, a provider of solar-powered wireless Internet across rural Kenya. From left: Scott Nathan, U.S. State Department, Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs ; Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC President and CEO ; Antony Cook, Microsoft Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for the Middle East and Africa.
Kenya’s solar-powered wireless Internet across rural areas Mawingu Networks is set to recieve US$4M (Ksh 4billion) from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s Development Finance Institution, a move that is set to turn around the fortunes of the internet service provider.
“This is an exciting day for the Mawingu team. The support from OPIC will really help us deliver on the potential of this opportunity to help connect millions of Kenyans to the Internet for the first time” says Mawingu Director Tim Hobbs.
Mawingu, Swahili word for clouds, is backed by Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an investment from Angel Investor Jim Forster, and early funding from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc and provides last-mile connectivity access to areas that cannot economically access the Internet.
OPIC aims to invest $4 million (in debt/ loan) to allow the firm commercially expansion its proven model to utilize existing technology of TV White Spaces (TVWS) connectivity for off-grid Internet access. The investment was announced on Friday at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC’s President and CEO said, “Financial support at crucial stages of a company’s business evolution can transform a great idea into a deeply impactful reality for millions in the developing world. By leveraging technology and ingenuity, Mawingu’s massive reach to connect rural African communities to the Internet is just beginning, and I look forward to the growth and scalability of this model that OPIC financing can unlock.”
Mawingu was the first of the 6 TV white space pilots Microsoft has deployed in Africa in collaboration with partners, making Africa a leader in TV white spaces.
“We hope regulators across the continent develop legal frameworks that support broader commercial deployment of the technology. It is now time to work with both local and global partners such as OPIC to go commercial and scale to impact not just thousands, but millions of lives across Africa,” Says Antony Cook, Microsoft’s Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for the Middle East and Africa
Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc says the investment in Mawingu will help drive resiliency in African communities and grow the business.