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SSA faces connectivity predicament as Meta winds down Express Wi-Fi

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Africa , 11 Feb 2022

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to be worst affected by Meta’s plan to discontinue its low-cost Express Wi-Fi internet launched five years ago to drive internet connectivity in underserved regions.

Meta (formerly Facebook Connectivity) issued a statement confirming plans to wind up the programme later this year.

Meta stated: “After more than five years in operation, we are planning to wind down our Express Wi-Fi programme. Together with our partners, we helped expand public Wi-Fi access for people in more than 30 countries via the Express Wi-Fi platform. While we are conducting our work on this programme to focus on developing other projects, we remain committed to working with partners across the telecom ecosystem to deliver better connectivity. As we conclude our work on the programme later this year, we’ll work closely with Express Wi-Fi partners to help minimise the impact of their businesses.”

The discontinuation of the low-cost Wi-Fi internet comes only two years after Meta partnered with Eutelsat Konnect to expand the low-cot internet service in several Sub-Saharan countries including Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Under the Express Wi-Fi programme, Facebook worked with partners including ISPs and mobile service providers to connect people through Wi-Fi hotspots in public places.

The programme was meant to bridge the internet gap in Africa where internet connectivity remains low.

Meta is currently involved in a project to extend its 45Km 2Africa subsea cable across Africa, Europe and Asia as part of its low-cost internet strategy.

According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the number of people in the whole of Africa with internet access has jumped to more than 520 million or 40% of the population, driven by digital consumption, rising urbanisation and quickening smartphone penetration.

The IFC said 60% of them access the internet through their mobile phones and improving internet access to reach 75% of the population could create a further 44 million jobs.

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