OPIC and Microsoft begin financing discussions with Kenya’s Mawingu Networks
July 24, 2015
July 24, 2015 – NAIROBI, KENYA: U.S. Development Finance Institution the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) signs a mandate letter to begin financing discussions with Mawingu Networks, a provider of solar-powered wireless Internet across rural Kenya. From left: Scott Nathan, U.S. State Department, Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs ; Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC President and CEO ; Antony Cook, Microsoft Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for the Middle East and Africa.
NAIROBI – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s Development Finance Institution, today signed a mandate letter to begin financing discussions with Mawingu Networks, a provider of solar-powered wireless Internet across rural Kenya.
OPIC’s President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield is in Nairobi for the 2015 Global Entrepreneur Summit, and signed the OPIC mandate today alongside Antony Cook, Microsoft’s Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for the Middle East and Africa, who served as a witness to the mandate between OPIC and Mawingu.
Mawingu Networks was able to establish their current operating model using an initial grant from Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an investment from Angel Investor Jim Forster, and early funding from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.
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 consideration of a potential $4 million loan would allow a commercial expansion of a proven model to utilize existing technology of TV White Spaces (TVWS) connectivity for off-grid Internet access.
“The development potential from creative private sector organizations like Mawingu captures the spirit and promise at the heart of this week’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC’s President and CEO. “Financial support at crucial stages of a company’s business evolution can transform a great idea into a deeply impactful reality for millions in the developing world. By leveraging technology and ingenuity, Mawingu’s massive reach to connect rural African communities to the Internet is just beginning, and I look forward to the growth and scalability of this model that OPIC financing can unlock.”
“Mawingu was the first of the 6 TV white space pilots Microsoft has deployed in Africa in collaboration with partners, making Africa a leader in TV white spaces. We hope regulators across the continent develop legal frameworks that support broader commercial deployment of the technology. It is now time to work with both local and global partners such as OPIC to go commercial and scale to impact not just thousands, but millions of lives across Africa,” Says Antony Cook, Microsoft’s Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for the Middle East and Africa
“This is an exciting day for the Mawingu team. The support from OPIC will really help us deliver on the potential of this opportunity to help connect millions of Kenyans to the Internet for the first time” says Mawingu Director Tim Hobbs.
“Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. is investing in African entrepreneurs and startups in order to develop scalable solutions from within Africa,” said Lauren Kickham, Vulcan Inc.’s head of Africa entrepreneurship program. “We are pleased that our investment in Mawingu will help drive resiliency in African communities. Through our pilots and partnerships, we will de-risk and catalyze growth of new businesses.”
OPIC is the U.S. Government’s development finance institution. It mobilizes private capital to help address critical development challenges and in doing so, advances U.S. foreign policy and national security priorities. 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, political risk insurance, and support for private equity investment funds, when commercial funding cannot be obtained elsewhere. 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.
All OPIC projects adhere to high environmental and social standards and respect human rights, including worker's rights. By mandating high standards, OPIC helps raise the industry and regional standards of the countries in which its projects operate. OPIC services are available for new and expanding business enterprises in more than 160 countries worldwide.
For more information visit www.opic.gov
About Mawingu Networks Ltd.
Mawingu Networks Ltd is a Kenyan company specializing in delivering affordable internet into the rural areas of Africa. The combination of solar power and new radio technologies — TVWS, Microwaves, and WiFi enable a solar-powered network which delivers much needed ‘Packets and Power’ to the people and businesses of these areas.
As a critical part of this, Mawingu Networks Ltd is establishing a reliable agent network that will be the friendly and helpful human face of this technology.
We believe that delivering affordable 'Packets and Power' will allow more people to actively participate in the regional, national and global markets for products, services through information and ideas thereby empowering the lives of these communities. Through this the company’s hopes to bridge the power and digital divide for people living off-grid in rural communities.
For more information please visit: http://www.mawingunetworks.com
The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative was launched in Feb 2013 to help accelerate Africa’s economic development and to improve its global competitiveness. It is a long-term commitment to help empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent and beyond. The 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. We want to help Africa become a net producer of technology, rather than a net consumer. The initiative is built on three key enablers critical to the success of that mission: innovation, world-class skills and affordable access.
For more information please visit: http://www.microsoft.com/africa/4afrika/
About Vulcan Inc.
Vulcan Inc. creates and advances a variety of world-class endeavors and high-impact initiatives that change and improve the way people live, learn, do business and experience the world. Founded in 1986 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, Vulcan oversees various business and philanthropic projects. For more information, visit www.vulcan.com.