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OPIC and Microsoft Commit to Support Wireless Internet Expansion in Kenya


September 21, 2016 

Increase to internet access will have development impact in rural areas of Kenya

New York, N.Y. – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, today 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 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.”

“Mawingu is proud and honoured to be working with the support of OPIC and the American government. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to build upon our successful pilot project, and this funding will help us to accelerate the roll out of our network in rural areas across Kenya and beyond,” said Tim Hobbs, Director Mawingu Networks Ltd. “It is becoming increasingly clear that affordable access to the internet is a powerful driver of economic growth and Mawingu is committed to making sure that this opportunity is available to as many Kenyans as possible.”

“This partnership is a perfect example of how stakeholders can come together from government and industry to bring those online who might not otherwise be connected,” said Catherine A. Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, U.S. Department of State. “The State Department commends OPIC and Microsoft for this important step toward bridging the digital divide and supporting the goals of the Global Connect Initiative to help bring an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020.”

“Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. believes in the untapped potential and persistence of Africans to develop innovative solutions that meet the needs of their communities,” said Lauren Kickham, head of Vulcan Inc.’s Impact Investing program.  “That’s why he’s supporting Mawingu, whose scalable model holds promise for deep social impact in Kenya and beyond.  Our work is focused on finding those local entrepreneurs who can provide African communities sustainable opportunities to develop and grow.”

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About OPIC

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 aims to raise the industry and regional standards of the countries where it funds projects. 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 

ABOUT MICROSOFT4AFRIKA

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. is a nimble private company working to solve some of the biggest global issues. The projects and investments we pursue are inspired by the ideas of our founder Paul G. Allen and tethered to a simple principle; we use data to inform our efforts and seek out opportunities that can make a positive impact—and share what we learn. Vulcan supports innovative approaches that can save endangered species, address climate change, improve ocean health, explore new frontiers, research how the human brain works and build sustainable communities. Our programs, projects and initiatives bring together industry leaders collaborating across disciplines to discover and develop smart, data-driven solutions and create inspiring experiences that help us tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges. For more information, visit www.vulcan.com.

About the Department of State’s Global Connectivity Initiative

The Global Connect initiative seeks to bring an additional 1.5 billion people online by 2020.  Launched one-year ago, the initiative has highlighted 65 new and existing international connectivity efforts valued at over $20 billion.  The initiative seeks to encourage foreign governments to integrate internet connectivity into their development strategies; double public and private funding for international connectivity by 2020; and highlight industry led efforts to bring the rest of the world online. It also seeks to encourage governments to adopt the right policies to create an enabling environment for growth. For more information, please proceed to the website here: https://share.america.gov/globalconnect/.