By Mark Kawalya
Elon Musk’s SpaceX and e-commerce player Jumia Technologies have partnered in a move that will result in a new era of satellite internet services in Africa.
This collaboration uses Starlink’s cutting edge satellite technology ad Jumia’s wide reach to address the continent’s connectivity gaps. Jumia will market and distribute Starlink’s satellite terminals and associated kits throughout several African nations as part of this partnership.
According to Jumia’s Chief Commercial Officer, Hisham El Gabry, the rollout is scheduled to start in Nigeria in the upcoming weeks and will shortly extend to Kenya.
With this partnership, Jumia becomes the first e-commerce company in Africa to sell and distribute these kits, putting it at the forefront of the region’s satellite broadband distribution. Africa has the lowest internet penetration rate in the world, despite its large geography and abundance of resources. Broadband has mostly been provided by traditional telecom network carriers like MTN Group and Vodacom Group.
However, establishing infrastructure in the far-flung areas of the continent is often riddled with bottlenecks. In the past, a number of tech behemoths have tried their hand at bringing high-speed internet to Africa in creative ways. While Google’s Project Loon investigated using helium-filled balloons for high-altitude connectivity, Facebook, under Meta Platforms, attempted to employ a huge drone for the same purpose. But in the end, neither initiative was pursued.
For connecting Africa’s huge territories, Starlink’s strategy makes use of a network of tiny satellites in communication with user terminals. However, the typical Starlink terminal’s price of US$557 (about UGX 2,100,000) in Nigeria may make widespread adoption difficult.
“We have seen Starlink do these types of deals in Southeast Asia and South America, and now Africa will also have the opportunity to access the fast-speed internet services,” said Hisham El Gabry, Chief Commercial Officer of Jumia, who expressed optimism about the relationship. He went on to emphasize Jumia’s proficiency in navigating the retail and goods scene in Africa, as well as the company’s capacity to meet the particular difficulties faced by the area.