Africa50 is an infrastructure financier backed by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), Bank Al-Maghrib (the Central Bank of the Kingdom of Morocco, and 28 African countries).
Managing Director and Head of Infrastructure Investments at Africa50, Raza Hasnani, while speaking on the investment cited the importance of the service that Poa Internet Service is rendering to the Nairobi residents, especially in a time like this when activities have become increasingly digitized due to the pandemic.
“Increasing access to reliable and affordable internet connectivity is strongly aligned with the key pillars of Africa50’s strategy, and we are excited to be part of this high impact journey and to support Poa’s growth in Africa,” said Hasnani.
A report published by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) in 2020 pegged the number of Africans with access to internet connectivity at only 29%. Lack of affordable access to the Internet in the continent is a major contributor to slow digitalization which makes the demand for the startup’s service both timely and necessary.
Poa Internet Service was launched in 2017 in Kenya to provide affordable and fast internet services to low and middle-income neighborhoods through its street wifi connections. This strategy has allowed the startup to effectively compete with giant telcos such as Safaricom, Safaricom, Faiba by Jamii Telecommunication Limited, and Zuku.
TechCrunch reports that Poa Internet has experienced tremendous growth from about 1,500 home Internet connections to 12,000 customers (homes and small businesses). Unlike competitors that provide data with limited usage, Poa offers a monthly subscription of $13 with unlimited data usage.
Andy Halsall, CEO of Poa Internet service said that the company is not necessary for competition with the industry leaders, rather are in business to provide internet access to the niches that are often neglected by giant companies, he also considers the Internet speed and the affordable price as the company’s unique selling points.
“Our internet speeds are 4mbps, which is fast enough for video because everyone wants to stream Netflix, use YouTube, download movies, and make video calls. So, we’ve designed our service to be fast enough to deliver video, but most importantly, our price is a winning factor,” reported Halsall.
He went further to say, Poa is not in competition with any of the big players as it is providing access to a niche that is considered to be underserved. Apart from home and business subscriptions, it has also provided Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas, where users pay about $0.18 for 1 GB of data. This connection is achieved through the fiber network that it has laid out in all these neighborhoods.
Our primary focus is to get the price as low as possible and to operate in the communities that don’t have fiber connectivity or are unlikely to get fiber
Internet accessibility and affordability are a problem across Africa. Poa plans to use the new funding to grow its reach, first across Kenya then progressively to other countries in the continent.
Poa Internet currently operates in Kibera, Kawangware, Jamhuri, and Kabiria in Nairobi, and now in areas of Kiambu and Ting’ang’a. For the startup, the aim is to get a lot of people online and to give them a meaningful internet experience.