Space Exploration Technologies Corp., led by billionaire Elon Musk, is poised to form a partnership with e-commerce firm Jumia Technologies AG to expand its satellite broadband services across Africa. Jumia, which boasts investors like Pernod Ricard SA and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., will kick off the sale of satellite terminals of Starlink and associated equipment in specific African nations.
This will be starting with Nigeria in the coming weeks, as confirmed by Hisham El Gabry, Jumia’s Chief Commercial Officer.
This collaboration establishes Jumia as the frontrunner in providing these kits through a sales and distribution arrangement on the continent.
He said, “We have seen Starlink do these type of deals in Southeast Asia and South America, and now Africa will also have the opportunity to access the fast-speed internet services, “The plan is to start selling through our sites and agents in Nigeria this month, and then Kenya.”
According to Bloomberg, collaboration with Jumia will enable Starlink to market its terminals in regions with limited formal addresses and city mapping. These portable terminals, equipped to connect with low-earth orbit satellites, have the potential to provide broadband services in a continent that currently has the lowest internet penetration rate globally.
Other companies who have tried bringing high-speed internet to Africa
While companies like MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. have historically been the primary broadband providers in Africa, the challenge of expanding infrastructure to remote areas has remained a significant obstacle for telecom companies.
Several major tech companies have tried bringing high-speed internet to Africa through innovative approaches. However, these endeavors have often faced setbacks, leading to a return to more conventional methods like fiber optics and undersea cables.
For instance, Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook once attempted to develop a massive drone to provide high-altitude connectivity on the continent, but the project was eventually grounded.
Similarly, Alphabet Inc.’s Google pursued a similar goal using a scheme called Loon, which involved helium-filled balloons, but the project was discontinued two years ago.
Jumia and Starlink to begin operation in 11 African countries
Nevertheless, Musk’s extensive network of small satellites that communicate through user terminals seems to hold a more promising prospect for connecting people across the expansive continent However, the price tag of a typical Starlink terminal, which costs 435,000 naira ($557) in Nigeria, might pose a deterrent for some potential users.
El Gabry said, “We had to establish our own business models and transportation network, even mapping to a certain extent when we started building an African e-commerce business. “So we have the needed experience in navigating the retail and merchandise landscape in Africa.”
Jumia intends to gradually introduce the product Starlink has in the 11 African countries where it conducts its operations, as stated by El Gabry. Starlink has acknowledged the agreement but has not provided any further specifics.
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