Laurent Grimaldi, CEO of Konnect Africa

“Investment in ICTs is essential in taking any country to the next level of productivity and efficiency. Investing in ICTs is not at the expense of other sectors, investing in ICTs results in benefits for every sector and the earlier you start the better.” – HE Mr Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, Chairman of Smart Africa 

By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be African. It is the youngest continent in the world. It is a place where you can find unique opportunities and talents. It is where you find incredible ideas from waste-based energy devices to apps allowing for real time payments. But a place where these projects struggle to scale up.

How can internet inclusiveness become a reality? What is missing to fast-track inclusive growth and help African potential spread all over the continent and beyond? I have worked in African countries for many years now, and have been amazed by the way the internet-based economy has grown. And Africans excel in making the most of it.

Take agriculture and think of apps like Icow to improve cattle management, or the StarShea program in Ghana connecting 3,000 women farmers to the global shea nut supply chain. Internet connectivity can help farmers to get real time information on best farming practices, crop diseases and pest control, to identify buyers at the best price, better manage the supply chain and revolutionize land management.

And if we think about young African entrepreneurs and the substantial increase of start-ups, how can we not consider Internet access to be the biggest driver of economic development? From FinTech apps making money transfers and now micro-insurance schemes available to everyone, to shipping containers transformed into classrooms and the rise of locally developed TV and web series. All these projects could fast track Africa’s growth thanks to increased, faster, and more reliable internet connectivity.

No doubt the potential is there – the issue is: how can we release it? I believe that a solution perfectly suited for Africa is also available and that it is satellite broadband. This is why I embraced the Konnect Africa venture. Kenyans, French, Brits, Beninese, Indians, Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Senegalese…we’re a truly international team. Some of us like me have led telecom consortiums, others know how to build networks or are passionate about Africa - but our common conviction is that satellite broadband can make the difference for the continent, regardless of the misconceptions about this technology.

Satellite broadband makes sense for emerging regions precisely because it enables internet to come “from above” and does not require massive terrestrial infrastructure which is difficult to install and maintain in these countries. To put it in more concrete terms: with a simple, easy to set up antenna, we aim to guarantee reliable, quality and efficient services in sub-Saharan Africa. The development of the satellite industry has also prompted lower prices. Today, we are increasingly highly competitive and cost effective - and ready to initiate new approaches such as Wi-Fi hot spots for sub-urban and rural areas.

We use High-Throughput Satellites (HTS), which provides 30 times more capacity than any conventional satellite, with some 100 Gbps of capacity per satellite. Now we can successfully complement existing fibre or 4G schemes that cannot extend far beyond urban areas. Now we can make a difference – and all the more so as our business approach is perfectly suited for the consumer habits and preferences of the continent.

At Konnect Africa, we strongly believe that being open-minded and curious is the key to success. Our model is inspired from the best practices in the telecommunication, solar and finance industries, combined with innovative products and business models. We work hand in hand with a strong network of partners (telecom operators, Internet Service Providers, etc.) to whom we propose tailored services and packages. With commercial and marketing training, we want to support our partners in their customer outreach, while their market knowledge will help us innovate further in our service offering. A partnership with Konnect Africa is a two-way, win-win process designed to have an impact on our partners and end-users.

This is a meaningful project for me - sitting on the boards of many start-ups, I realise how best African young entrepreneurs can leverage improved connectivity. The specific digital challenges facing the African continent need to be addressed with the right approach – and satellite broadband makes sense. I look forward to connecting with new partners from all part of the value chain to spread that message.

We can successfully help bridge the digital divide - and we can do it now.

About Konnect Africa

Building on our 40-year experience from leading satellite operator Eutelsat, the Konnect Africa project started in 2015, and since then our team has worked on the ground to increase the expertise of our partners in each African market where we are launching our first offers (Benin, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda). Today, we are ready to provide Africans with reliable Internet access and to offer them tailored services that meet all their needs. Our commercial service will be live from June 2017.

Laurent Grimaldi, CEO of Konnect Africa

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