The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, has announced commitment and first disbursement to Mawingu Networks, a provider of solar-powered wireless Internet across rural Kenya. OPIC committed to financing a $4.1 million loan.
Mawingu Networks was able to establish their current operating model using an initial grant in 2013 from Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). They received equity funding from Angel Investor Jim Forster, Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., and Microsoft Corporation two years after their first phase of support. 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 utilize existing technology of TV White Space (TVWS) connectivity for off-grid internet access. “We are excited to announce during this week’s Africa U.S. Business Forum an additional round of OPIC support for a highly-developmental investment in Africa,” said Elizabeth L. Littlefield, OPIC’s President and CEO. “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.”