RWANDA – Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank and Smart Africa Secretariat (Smart Africa) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop solutions that enable affordable broadband across Africa.
Specifically, SoftBank and Smart Africa will work to provide accessible and affordable internet connectivity to Africa’s underserved regions, and effectively “bridge the digital divide”.
The news forms part of Smart Africa overall goal to double broadband penetration in Africa to 51% by the year 2025 and as such, the alliance is working to implement the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project, an initiative that aims to deliver affordable internet connectivity for African citizens leveraging the procurement resources of its member countries.
As its contribution to the project, SoftBank which became a Smart Africa Gold Member in October 2020, will deploy its non-terrestrial network (NTN) solutions to reduce internet costs and build affordable internet infrastructure.
SoftBank’s NTN Solutions will use the connectivity services of OneWeb, Skylo, and HAPSMobile, among others, to provide connectivity from space.
“The vision of transforming Africa into a single digital market requires us to embrace partnerships,” said Lacina Koné , Chief Executive Officer of Smart Africa.
“Therefore, we are honoured to welcome SoftBank Corp. into the Smart Africa Alliance. Together, we will be able to inject further innovation into Africa’s digital innovation as we move towards creating a Single Digital Market by 2030.”
The first stage of the collaboration will see SoftBank and Smart Africa continue identify demand for NTN solutions by conducting further feasibility studies in the five African countries that have already expressed interest in the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project and these include, the Republic of Djibouti, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of Kenya, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Republic of Rwanda.
In addition, SoftBank and Smart Africa will draw up implementation plans and consider potential market entries in the future and in order to address bridging the digital divide, the two will also study ways to collaborate and engage with organisations such as the HAPS Alliance, which aims to promote the commercial adoption of HAPS.
“Together, we will be able to inject further innovation into Africa’s digital innovation as we move towards creating a Single Digital Market by 2030”Lacina Kone – Chief Executive Officer, Smart Africa
Lastly, this partnership will contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by providing digital solutions that address societal challenges.
“We believe our NTN solutions will be extremely effective technologies to provide connectivity to African countries and regions that lack sufficient Internet access,” said Hidebumi Kitahara, Vice president and head of the technology unit’s global business strategy division, at SoftBank Corp.
“With our NTN solutions powered by OneWeb, Skylo and HAPSMobile, we’ll work closely with Smart Africa to provide telecommunication networks.”
Smart Africa is an alliance of 32 African countries, international organisations and global private sector players tasked with Africa’s digital agenda.
The alliance is empowered by a bold and innovative commitment by African Heads of State to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development on the continent and usher Africa into the knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband and the use of ICTs. With a vision to create a single digital market in Africa by 2030, the Smart Africa Alliance brings together Heads of State who seek to accelerate the digitalization of the continent and create a common market.
Launched in 2013 by seven (7) African Heads of State, the Alliance now represents over 815 million people and over 40 Private Sector members committed to the vision and the advancement of Africa.
Other private sector members of the Smart Africa Alliance include Facebook, Intel, Orange, Ericsson, Econet, Microsoft and Inmarsat among others.
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