Cassava Technologies works to bring better internet to African countries
Much of Africa has gotten a taste of the internet thanks to cellular technology, but high-speed access remains scarce on the continent thanks to a lack of consumer spending power and a fractured, unreliable power grid. Cassava Technologies, a spinout of an African telecommunications firm, aims to change that equation. Africa is home to 54 countries and 1.3 billion people and covers an area larger than India, China and Western Europe combined. That's too big a chunk of the planet to be stuck with spotty, expensive internet access. Much of the continent now has cellular access. But expanding to high-speed internet service has been a challenge. One key is making the economics work. Across the continent, 85 percent of people earn less than $5.50 per day, per the World Bank, while in sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of people take home less than $2 a day. Reliable power is another issue. Utility companies have struggled to provide consistent access to power and where it is available it is costly, Pemhiwa says, adding that in many countries 12-hour blackouts are common and even in places such as South Africa multi-hour disruptions still occur. The result is that less than 40 percent of Africans have steady internet access due to either availability or cost. Enter Cassava, which last year was spun out of Econet, one of Africa's large cellular providers. The firm has businesses doing everything from laying fiber and building data centers to offering mobile payments and cybersecurity services.
Bringing more internet to Africa