In this interview, Avanti Communications Regional Director, West Africa, Reuben Oshomah discusses the opportunities that the company has created for Africa’s underserved regions.
Interviewer: What is Avanti known for?
Reuben Oshomah: Avanti Communications is the leading Ka-band high throughput satellite capacity partner to the communications industry across EMEA focused on driving connectivity across Africa. Our mission is to work in partnership with the people of Africa to empower growth, protect communities and unlock opportunities for individuals, businesses, and governments by creating better connections across the continent.
Interviewer: This year, Avanti Communications signed a partnership agreement with Clear Blue technologies. How does this partnership help strengthen the services of Avanti to impact meaningfully on the socio-economic development of Africa?
Reuben Oshomah: Our recent partnership with Clear Blue Technologies will accelerate the rural rollout of low-cost connectivity solutions in areas where network coverage and broadband services have been limited or non-existent. Everyone needs a more connected life and the benefits that come with it, and this partnership is should deliver coverage to 400 million people living in remote areas within 3-5 years. As part of this joint rural deployment effort, Avanti provides critical, high throughput Ka-band satellite connectivity and VSAT equipment, whilst Clear Blue Technologies deploys innovative, off-grid solar-powered solutions with remote management and control.
Interviewer: Most Ghanaian (Africa) communities still face challenges in internet accessibility. What are some of the initiatives governments can take to expand internet accessibility?
Reuben Oshomah: Connectivity is a vital tool to empower people and strengthen communities. As governments plan their digital transformation, we believe that prioritising satellite internet accessibility will benefit the countries and territories that don’t receive attention for terrestrial high-speed broadband. The pandemic has reminded us how vital a robust technology infrastructure keeps people, government services, schools and health services connected. In addition, satellite connectivity is often the only way for governments to connect rural and remote areas where terrestrial networks are currently unreliable.
Partnerships are key to helping bring economic coverage to remote areas of the world with limited terrestrial networks, and we believe governments should prioritise collective action to help improve internet access across the continent. Governments should therefore look to partner with telecommunications operators and satellite providers to reach these areas. They also need to provide a conducive environment for adequate security and policies that will encourage providers and investors to thrive.
Interviewer: As a leading name in pioneering satellite technologies, how will Avanti bridge the internet gap between rural and urban communities in Ghana?
Reuben Oshomah: Significant progress has been made over the past 30 years in connecting rural communities, but addressing the digital divide remains a considerable challenge. This is due to the limited terrestrial networks in rural communities. As the number one high throughput satellite company in Africa, Avanti is rolling out rural and ultra-rural connectivity with Africa’s largest Mobile Network Operators (MNOS) and tower companies to provide life-enhancing coverage to those living in hard-to-reach areas across sub-Saharan Africa-which would otherwise be impossible to reach using the traditional terrestrial infrastructure.
Interviewer: What are some of the opportunities you think Avanti Communications will bring to marginalised Ghanaians?
Reuben Oshomah: As an organisation, we are committed to leveraging satellite technology to strengthen communities, and we believe education is a crucial step towards empowerment. Avanti recently partnered with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to help address barriers to girls’ education in Kenya and Ghana through targeted, context-specific awareness and information campaigns. We are proud to be working with the GPE to help break down some of the social barriers preventing girls from reaching their full potential.
For the last seven years, Avanti has led a first-of-its-kind e-learning project that provides education to over 180,000 children in Kenya, mostly marginalised young girls. Avanti provides satellite-enabled broadband and personalised content in literacy, numeracy and life skills and has shown exceptional learning outcomes for these children, such as doubling their numeracy learning rates. We have ambitious plans to roll out this project in Ghana soon.
Interviewer: What are some of the identified barriers to technology development, and how will Avanti tackle them?
Reuben Oshomah: One of the main barriers impacting technology development is a lack of infrastructure and terrestrial networks. To tackle this issue, we recently launched Avanti EXTEND, a new managed service for rural connectivity. Avanti EXTEND provides high-performance and cost-effective 2G, 3G and 4G solutions to remote and hard-to-reach areas across sub-Saharan Africa. This enables. MNOs and tower companies to provide reliable cellular service to the 100 million people living in these challenging locations that would otherwise be impossible to reach using the traditional terrestrial infrastructure.
Avanti EXTEND’s built-in and fully operational CAPEX solution integrates seamlessly into MNOs’ terrestrial networks to reduce network complexity and increase efficiency. It also offers MNOs and tower companies the opportunity to undertake large deployments quickly and effectively and scale operations to support long-term rural expansion at no additional CAPEX. This removes the need for them to manage satellite configurations, hub infrastructure or terrestrial networks to deploy a successful satellite cellular backhaul topology.
Interviewer: In terms of numbers, how many jobs or employment opportunities will Avanti create to reduce the unemployment figures in the country?
Reuben Oshomah: To help power growth, we have committed 75% of our total investment to help connect the continent. Avanti has established teams throughout Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. We have made future commitments to increase the number of teams as we continue to expand rural connectivity across the continent. In addition, we will be deploying cellular backhaul sites in several other countries across Africa, including Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia, South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania.
Interviewer: What role will the internet play in successfully implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and what is needed to tap this potential?
Reuben Oshomah: The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has stated the importance of pursuing and improving regional strategies to develop Africa’s digital economy. While e-commerce is thriving in some African countries, there is space for improvement. Connectivity is a vital tool that can help local businesses establish themselves on the global stage and improve the conditions of African economies. The pandemic has highlighted the growing digital divide. We believe it is essential that AfCFTA works in partnership with service providers like Avasti to support the development of digital technologies across the content and improve trade.
Interviewer: Does the low internet penetration in most countries of the continent hinder economic growth? In what ways?
Reuben Oshomah: COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone, especially for those living in unconnected communities. In a world where the global reliance on connectivity is evolving, the unconnected have become even further removed from the modern digital world and what it has to offer. We believe everyone has the potential to “Be More’, and connectivity empowers people to achieve their full potential. At the peak of the pandemic, we realised how much the digital divide was growing. Instead of watching it grow, we proactively identified opportunities to connect even more individuals, businesses, and communities.
The internet is a significant driver of economic growth. With low penetration, there will be fewer people contributing to the economy. For any economy’s growth, more people must have access to the internet, bringing about remote work and commerce opportunities. More people need to be able to contribute through remote work and online commerce.
Faleti Joshua is an avid lover of space in all its incomprehensible nature. He holds both an LL.B and a B.L degree. Joshua is a lover of music and a lawyer in his free time.