USTDA Grants Ilitha Telecommunications Funding to Bring Reliable Internet Access to South Africa’s Townships
In an effort to bridge the digital divide in South Africa, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant to Ilitha Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (Ilitha) for a feasibility study.
This study aims to provide reliable and affordable internet access to over five million people living in the country’s townships.
Ilitha has partnered with MeshPlusPlus Inc. (Mesh++), a company based in Illinois, to pilot a solar-powered Wi-Fi solution as part of the study. The study itself will be conducted by Vernonburg Group LLC, a Georgia-based company selected by Ilitha.
USTDA’s Director, Enoh T. Ebong, expressed the agency’s commitment to supporting its partners in navigating the ever-changing technology landscape.
“Our new partnership with Ilitha is just one example of how USTDA is working to bring innovative, high-quality U.S. solutions to help bridge the digital divide in South Africa,” said Ebong.
The study will evaluate technical options and associated costs for expanding Ilitha’s fixed wireless access networks in South Africa’s townships.
The pilot project will specifically focus on the Eastern Cape Province, where solar-powered WiFi technology will be assessed as a solution for expanding Ilitha’s network infrastructure in areas with unreliable electricity access.
Ilitha CEO, Vuyani Jarana, expressed his excitement about the project’s potential impact. “What started off as a passion to connect as many people as possible in the townships with affordable broadband has far exceeded Ilitha’s expectations in this short period of time,” said Jarana.
He added that the demand for Ilitha’s proposition has expanded beyond high-density township areas, requiring the company to seek high-capacity radio solutions to provide affordable and quality broadband to rural and lower-density areas. The Mesh++ solution has been identified as a technology that can meet the broadband demands of customers in these markets.
The grant from USTDA will fund the deployment of Mesh++ in the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality, located in the Eastern Cape Province. This investment not only allows Ilitha to test and validate the technology but also provides affordable broadband service to those who need it most.
U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety II, emphasized the significance of fully connecting the country. He stated that it would help South Africa unleash its full economic potential and bring critical services such as education and healthcare to populations that currently lack reliable access.
Brigety also highlighted the job creation opportunities that secure connectivity can bring. He sees this grant as a demonstration of the U.S. government’s commitment to fostering partnerships between American and African companies in this crucial sector.
USTDA’s study aligns with the Digital Transformation with Africa initiative, announced in December 2022 at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. This initiative aims to expand digital access across the continent.
Additionally, the study supports the Prosper Africa initiative, which seeks to increase trade and investment between the United States and Africa, as well as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.