Japan’s SoftBank and Smart Africa entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to collaborate on innovative solutions towards achieving the vision of providing affordable broadband. Through this partnership, SoftBank and Smart Africa will work to bridge the digital divide by providing accessible and affordable internet connectivity to Africa’s underserved regions.
Through various projects and activities, Smart Africa has an ambitious strategy to double 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, an initiative that aims to deliver affordable internet connectivity for African citizens through the large-scale joint procurement efforts of Smart Africa member countries. To contribute to the Project, SoftBank will deploy its Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) Solutions to reduce internet costs and build affordable internet infrastructure. SoftBank 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. SoftBank aims to deploy NTN Solutions in African markets by collaborating with Smart Africa and working closely with its member countries.
SoftBank 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 (the Republic of Djibouti, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of Kenya, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Republic of Rwanda). SoftBank and Smart Africa will also draw up implementation plans and consider potential market entries in the future.
The partnership, with a vision to expand the area of work from internet infrastructure into digital transformation (DX), 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 the realization of a single digital market on the continent through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). To bridge the digital divide, SoftBank and Smart Africa will also study ways to collaborate and engage with organizations such as the HAPS Alliance, which seeks to promote the commercial adoption of HAPS, among others. Further, through a series of engagements in the coming future, this partnership will also consequently work to contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing digital solutions that address societal challenges.
“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 Lacina Koné, Smart Africa’s CEO.
Contributing to the SDGs is a top managerial priority for SoftBank, and the company has identified six key initiatives (materiality) 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.
“We believe our NTN solutions will be extremely effective technologies to provide connectivity to African countries and regions that lack sufficient Internet access. With our NTN solutions powered by OneWeb, Skylo and HAPSMobile, we’ll work closely with Smart Africa to provide telecommunication networks,” said Hidebumi Kitahara, SoftBank Corp. Vice President and Head of the Technology Unit’s Global Business Strategy Division.