SoftBank Corporation and Smart Africa Secretariat announced, on June 30, 2021, that they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on innovative solutions towards achieving the vision of providing affordable and accessible internet connectivity to Africa’s underserved regions to bridge the digital divide in the continent.
Through various projects and activities, Smart Africa has an ambitious strategy to double the broadband penetration to 51% in Africa by 2025. As part of achieving this vision, Smart Africa is working to implement the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project. This initiative aims to deliver affordable internet connectivity for African citizens through Smart Africa member countries’ large-scale joint procurement efforts. To contribute to the Project, SoftBank Corp will deploy its Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) solutions to reduce internet costs and build affordable internet infrastructure. SoftBank Corp also became a Smart Africa Gold Member in October 2020.
SoftBank’s NTN solutions will utilize the connectivity services of OneWeb, Skylo, and HAPSMobile, among other solutions, that provide connectivity from space and the stratosphere. In addition, SoftBank aims to deploy NTN solutions in African markets by collaborating with Smart Africa and working closely with its member countries.
SoftBank Corp and Smart Africa will begin their collaboration by identifying demand for NTN solutions and conducting further feasibility studies in the five African countries that have already expressed interest in the Bulk Capacity Purchase Project. These countries include the Republic of Djibouti, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of Kenya, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Republic of Rwanda. SoftBank Corp and Smart Africa will also draw up implementation plans and consider potential market entries in the future.
With a vision to expand the work area from internet infrastructure into digital transformation (DX), the partnership will boost the transition and development of a knowledge-based social economy in Africa. The collaboration will also align with the fundamentals of Smart Africa’s goal, which is to realise a single digital market on the continent through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). To bridge the digital divide, SoftBank Corp and Smart Africa will study ways to collaborate and engage with organizations such as the HAPS Alliance, which seeks to promote the commercial adoption of HAPS, among others. Furthermore, through a series of engagements in the coming future, this partnership will contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing digital solutions that address societal challenges.
Contributing to the SDGs is a top managerial priority for SoftBank Corp, and the company has identified six key initiatives to achieve them. “Building high-quality social communication networks” is one such initiative, and SoftBank is working to build sustainable communication infrastructure so people anywhere can connect to stable and trustworthy networks.
“The vision of transforming Africa into a single digital market requires us to embrace partnerships; therefore, we are honoured to welcome SoftBank Corp into the Smart Africa Alliance. Together, we will be able to inject further innovation into Africa’s digital innovation as we move towards creating a Single Digital Market by 2030”, said Mr Lacina Koné, Smart Africa’s CEO.
“We believe our NTN solutions will be highly effective technologies to provide connectivity to African countries and regions that lack sufficient Internet access, and we will work closely with Smart Africa to provide telecommunication networks,” said Mr Hidebumi Kitahara, SoftBank Corp’s vice president and head of the Technology Unit’s Global Business Strategy Division.
About Smart Africa
Smart Africa is an alliance of 32 African countries, international organisations and global private sector players tasked with Africa’s digital agenda. The alliance is empowered by a bold and innovative commitment by African Heads of State to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development on the continent and usher Africa into the knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband services and the use of ICTs. With a vision to create a single digital market in Africa by 2030, the Smart Africa Alliance brings together Heads of State who seek to accelerate the digitalization of the continent and create a common market. Launched in 2013 by seven African Heads of State, the Alliance now has 32 member countries, representing over 815 million people and over 40 Private Sector members committed to the vision and the advancement of Africa. Other private sector members of the Smart Africa Alliance include Facebook, Intel, Orange, Ericsson, Econet, Microsoft and Inmarsat.
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