The last few years have seen an accelerated change in the way we work and communicate. Advancements in digital technology have forced a shift in several aspects of our lives and the future of work. In the context of Africa, there is a lot of effort that is being put in towards preparing the continent for the future of work. Part of ensuring that the continent is in a position that allows its workforce to fully participate in this future involves the setting up and fine-tuning of infrastructure that supports the digital world.
By Kudzai Joshua Zawe
Africa’s Telecoms Industry
There has been a rapid expansion in the development of telecommunications infrastructure across Africa over the last couple of years. Players in the industry are jostling to expand their networks and provide broadband coverage to hundreds of millions of people on the continent. The industry is led by companies such as Liquid Technologies, Safaricom, and Africell. These giants have attracted billions of dollars in investment collectively, funds which have mostly gone towards the expansion of their networks. For example, in 2021, Liquid Technologies announced that its network has grown over 100,000km and they are in 14 African countries. It is this kind of infrastructure that has brought broadband access to several parts of the continent.
Startups in Telecommunications
While these are these giants that are continually expanding their networks across Africa, there are startups that are coming onto the scene with unique solutions for some of the challenges that prospective users face. There are several areas of the continent that do not have internet access, mostly because they are remotely located and there is little to no infrastructural development, such as electricity supply to these areas. This, in turn, affects the ability of network providers to provide their services to these regions. Solutions to such problems have the potential to transform lives and economies, local and regional.
Mawingu Network (Kenya)
This Kenyan startup has developed a system that can bring internet access to all places, built up and remote. Mawingu uses solar power to provide fast and reliable connections to its users. The network has packages for home and commercial use and these packages come with various speeds to suit the needs of the user. The open-source nature of the technology that is used by Mawingu makes it easily scalable. Scalability is particularly important in the context of Africa because these solutions are only as effective as their ability to serve large markets.
The network has set up several hotspots in some remote parts of Kenya and it is at these hotspots that potential users can be helped with onboarding onto the network. Agents representing the network are available at these hotspots to help those that want to join the network. What Mawingu has done with such a system is bring the network to the people instead of waiting for would-be users to seek out their services. This approach allows for quicker onboarding of users and having agents close to potential customers makes the process smoother as those who need any help get it quickly regardless of their being in a remote area.
MainOne (West Africa)
MainOne is a telecoms service provider for businesses whose products are designed to help businesses achieve their goals and increase their profitability. The startup has attracted over $100,000,000 in funding since its inception. MainOne provides its services in 10 countries, with several businesses making use of the network. The availability of its infrastructure in different countries and its multiple points of presence (PoPs) approach means that businesses that use the network have reliable access to the network and guaranteed support should they need it.
Outside of its connectivity services, MainOne provides a number of other services that are important for businesses. Through one of its companies called MDXi, they provide data center infrastructure for their clients. These data centers are designed to give users cost-effective access to cloud storage, interconnection with international providers, and other digital solutions that are vital to the growth of any business in this era.
Mawingu and MainOne provide services that are on opposite ends of the spectrum but are equally important to the growth and development of Africa. The telecoms industry has a key role to play in the future of work and the general economic development of the continent. These startups, and others like them, are attracting high investment because of the place they hold in the future of Africa. We look forward to the growth of these startups.
We will be discussing the future of work at the upcoming Freelancers’ Summit and if you would like to be a part of the conversation, check out https://freelancerssummit.org/ and see how you can join the summit.