Poa Internet Service, a Kenyan startup that offers unlimited WiFi internet service to dwellers of low-income areas in Nairobi, has secured $28m in Series C funding.
The round was led by Africa50 with participation from Novastar Ventures. 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 mentioned the importance of Poa’s work especially in a time when activities have become increasingly digitized due to the pandemic.
Raza Hasnani, MD& Head of Infrastructure, Africa50
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,”
Affordable internet for low-income populace
The lack of affordable internet in Africa is one of the major reasons for the slow rate of digitalisation on the continent. According to a report published by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), as of December 2020, only 29% of Africans have access to the internet. This access to the internet often comes at a high price, further deepening the divide.
Poa Internet, was launched 5 years ago in Kenya to provide affordable and fast internet services to low and middle-income neighbourhoods through its street wifi connections. This strategy is allowing the startup to effectively compete with giant telcos such as Safaricom Home by East Africa’s biggest telco 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.
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,”Andy Halsall CEO, Poa
According to Poa, it 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 fiber network that it has laid out in all these neighbourhoods.
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 fiberAndy Halsall
Focus on Kenyan expansion
Internet accessibility and affordability is 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.
“We are focused on Kenya at the moment, but the problem we’re solving is continent-wide.Andy Halsall
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