The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US government’s development finance institution, has announced commitment and first disbursement of a US$4.1 million loan to Kenyan startup Mawingu Networks, a provider of solar-powered wireless internet.
Launched in 2013, Mawingu Networks uses a combination of solar power and new radio technologies to connect rural people to the internet, and is establishing a reliable agent network.
The company established its current operating model using an initial grant from Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), while it later received equity funding from angel investor Jim Forster, Paul Allen’s Vulcan, and Microsoft.
OPIC’s loan will allow a commercial expansion of a proven model to utilise TV white space connectivity for off-grid internet access.
“Mawingu’s technology and ingenuity will make it possible to provide affordable, solar powered wireless internet to communities throughout rural Kenya,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC president and chief executive officer (CEO).
“Its extensive reach will connect many of these developing communities to the World Wide Web for the first time, and we look forward to the growth and unlimited potential that this project will unveil with OPIC financing.”
Mawingu Networks director Tim Hobbs said the startup was proud to be working with the support of OPIC and the American government.
“We see this as a tremendous opportunity to build upon our successful pilot project, and this funding will help us to accelerate the roll out of our network in rural areas across Kenya and beyond,” he said.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that affordable access to the internet is a powerful driver of economic growth and Mawingu is committed to making sure that this opportunity is available to as many Kenyans as possible.”