Welcome to Tech Safari!
Your tour guide on African Tech 🧭
Today is Tech Roundup Tuesday, where we will dive into the biggest stories in the world's most exciting continent.
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Here's the tour plan for today 🧭
- Starlink’s Africa Roll Out
- Tech Roundup
- Tech Twitter
Alright, lets get this tour started 🦍
Starlink's Africa Roll Out
Elon Musk’s Starlink plans to bring internet to remote areas in 17 African countries this year, and another 12 in 2024.
The promise is that Starlink will connect the unconnected - but will it work in Africa? Let’s dive in.
Starlink is a satellite internet company, and an offshoot of Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX.
You may know Starlink for providing internet to Ukraine during the Russia-Ukraine war.
The most common forms of internet are cable and broadband - these require laying cables and setting up mobile towers.
When Russia targeted Ukrainian communications towers, the country moved to Starlink to provide satellite internet.
Starlink uses ‘Low Earth Orbit’ (LEO) satellites. These satellites are close to the earth’s surface and need a ‘terminal’ to pick up signal from them.
A terminal is about the size of a pizza box and just needs a router and power source to set up.
Using LEO satellites means it takes less time for data to travel from terminals on the ground to satellites in orbit which lets Starlink provide internet in rural, unconnected areas.
In Africa, internet and mobile services are dominated by a handful of companies - MTN, Airtel and Safaricom.
Setting up internet towers and cables in rural areas isn’t economical for these players - who would rather fight for dominance in Africa’s urban centres.
That’s where Starlink comes in.
Connecting the unconnected
We often hear the term ‘banking the unbanked’ in Africa when we talk about fintech.
With Starlink, Elon wants to connect the unconnected.
As of 2020, over 200 million people on the continent (about a fifth of the population) did not have access to internet.
Companies like Starlink are a great fit for these regions where connection is unreliable or unavailable.
Great potential to lift people out of poverty. Providing Internet is teaching people to fish.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
May 27, 2022
The first three African countries confirmed to be getting Starlink were Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria.
Rollouts were initially set for the fourth quarter of 2022. But if you know Elon, then you know that deadlines aren’t his thing.
This has been pushed back to early 2023, with Nigeria’s deployment commencing this month.
And Starlink has a big rollout on the cards for this year.
Is Africa Priced Out?
Last week, Starlink opened up for pre-orders in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, Starlink has a $600 set-up, and a $43 monthly subscription.
This is a discount compared to the $99 price per month, but still vastly out of reach.
Less than 5% of Africa’s population earns more than $10 a day.
Those earning more than $10 a day are living in urban areas - and already have access to internet.
Starlink’s mission of connecting the unconnected is nice in theory.
But unless they change their pricing model, or find partners to heavily subsidise Starlink, it will just be an aspiration in Africa.
This response summarises it perfectly.
@elonmusk Starlink costs $99. At least 40% of people in Nigeria barely make $1/day. Are there plans for a future concessions for low income countries? (Otherwise people in top 20%) are able to afford; which defeats the purpose of affordable Internet or all.
— akinyemi (@theprincelyx)
May 27, 2022
How do you think Starlink might approach the affordability dilemma in Africa? Let me know here.
- Testing is underway for Nigeria’s new rail network. The 27km rail system is expected to carry more than 500,000 passengers daily once complete.
- Kenya’s eCitizen platform, which was designed to provide Kenyans with online access to government services, has failed to deliver on efficiency and cyber security.
- The Ghanian Government has launched an online pharmacy platform that lets users buy medication online and organise deliveries.
- John Ngumi, former chairman of Safaricom, has resigned after only five months in office. Safaricom is Kenya’s largest telecommunications provider.
No African tech ecosystem can run away from regulation.
The true potential of Africa lies at the intersection of tech and policy innovations.
Founders, investors, ecosystem stakeholders & policy makers collaborating on dynamic policies will expand African tech innovation.
— Jasiel Martin-Odoom (@Jasielinvests)
Jan 5, 2023
Africa is the biggest continent in the world we need to get together!
— MeekMill (@MeekMill)
Jan 3, 2023
Okay so this isn’t true (yet) but it's good nice to see Meek Mill getting around Africa.
And that's a wrap!
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