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OPIC Board Approves $72 Million for Internet Expansion Project in East Africa

June 14, 2012
Will Bring Affordable High-speed Service to Underserved Middle-class Markets
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, today approved $72 million in financing to help bring affordable high-speed internet service, television programming and telephone service to growing, yet underserved middle class markets in East Africa.
The OPIC direct loan will enable Wananchi Group Holdings (WGH), a Kenyan company, to extend fiber optic cable services for high-speed internet, television and voice-over internet telephonic services in Kenya.  WGH will also provide pay TV programming via satellite across a broad footprint of cities and rural areas directly to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, and indirectly through agents to a number of other East African countries, including Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, and Zambia.
Of particular significance to WGH is the opportunity to provide customers with a combination of high-quality international programming and locally-based content. WGH’s Zuku-brand channels, for example, include a learning channel for children and a regional documentary channel where both the production and on-camera presence are local. WGH also offers a health channel that is responsive to local health concerns.
“Delivering state-of-the art internet service and television programming with improved local content to urbanizing East African markets at affordable prices is an important step forward for the region’s growing middle class,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield.  “We are pleased by the opportunity to support a technological upgrade that provides so many developmental benefits across so many African markets.”
In addition, the project will generate more than 1,000 local managerial and professional/technical jobs, as well as downstream jobs for third-party dealers, installers, and marketers.
The U.S. sponsor of the project is East Africa Capital Partners, a fund manager that received $50 million in OPIC financing in 2008 to establish Africa Telecommunications, Media and Technology Fund I. Much of that fund’s investment focus has been the development of WGH.
OPIC is the U.S. Government’s development finance institution.  It mobilizes private capital to help solve critical development challenges and in doing so, advances U.S. foreign policy.  Because OPIC works with the U.S. private sector, it helps U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets catalyzing revenues, jobs and growth opportunities both at home and abroad.  OPIC achieves its mission by providing investors with financing, guarantees, political risk insurance, and support for private equity investment funds.

Established as an agency of the U.S. Government in 1971, OPIC operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to American taxpayers. OPIC services are available for new and expanding business enterprises in more than 150 countries worldwide. To date, OPIC has supported more than $200 billion of investment in over 4,000 projects, generated an estimated $75 billion in U.S. exports and supported more than 276,000 American jobs.