OPIC and Microsoft Commit to Support Wireless Internet Expansion in Kenya

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, has made its first disbursement to Mawingu Networks.

A provider of solar-powered wireless Internet across rural Kenya, Mawingu Networks was able to establish its current operating model using an initial grant in 2013 from Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). OPIC committed to financing a $4.1 million loan.

Using a network of solar-powered “nomadic” wireless internet stations, Mawingu provides last-mile connectivity access to areas that cannot economically access the internet. Spurred on by the promise of Mawingu’s initial pilot operations, OPIC’s loan will allow a commercial expansion of a proven model to utilise existing technology of TV White Space (TVWS) connectivity for off-grid internet access.

Elizabeth L. Littlefield, OPIC’s President and CEO, said: “Mawingu’s technology and ingenuity will make it possible to provide affordable, solar powered wireless internet to communities throughout rural Kenya. Its extensive reach will connect many of these developing communities to the world wide web for the first time, and we look forward to the growth and unlimited potential that this project will unveil with OPIC financing.”

“As a partner of the Mawingu project since its inception in 2013, it is exciting to see it reaching the next stage of commercial roll-out. Our studies show that Mawingu’s business model is affordable for consumers even in the least developed areas,” said Amrote Abdella, Regional Director 4Afrika Initiatives. “Ultimately, the expansion will build Africa’s knowledge economy by connecting more people to educational and advancement opportunities.”

“We see this as a tremendous opportunity to build upon our successful pilot project, and this funding will help us to accelerate the roll out of our network in rural areas across Kenya and beyond,” said Tim Hobbs, Director Mawingu Networks Ltd. “It is becoming increasingly clear that affordable access to the internet is a powerful driver of economic growth and Mawingu is committed to making sure that this opportunity is available to as many Kenyans as possible.”

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