Starlink to be rolled out in Africa by Jumia

SpaceX, led by billionaire Elon Musk, is joining forces with e-commerce company Jumia Technologies to expand satellite broadband services across Africa. Jumia, backed by investors including Pernod Ricard and Goldman Sachs Group, will serve as the distributor for Starlink’s satellite terminals and related equipment in select African nations, starting with Nigeria.

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Hisham El Gabry, Jumia’s Chief Commercial Officer, revealed in an interview that the partnership aims to provide fast-speed internet services to Africa, beginning with sales through Jumia’s websites and agents in Nigeria, with Kenya to follow.

One significant advantage of this partnership is the ability to reach regions without formal addresses or detailed city mapping, where conventional broadband infrastructure is lacking. Starlink’s portable satellite terminals, which connect to low-Earth orbit satellites, offer the potential to bring broadband services to Africa, a continent with one of the lowest internet penetration rates globally.

While traditional telecom operators like MTN Group and Vodacom Group have historically been the primary broadband providers in Africa, extending their infrastructure to remote areas presents significant challenges.

Several major tech companies have attempted to provide high-speed internet access in Africa using innovative approaches, including Meta Platforms’ Facebook and Google through Project Loon, but these initiatives faced obstacles and were ultimately discontinued.

SpaceX’s Starlink, with its extensive network of small satellites that communicate through user terminals, appears to offer a more promising solution to connect people across the vast African continent. However, the cost of a standard Starlink terminal, priced at $557 (approximately R10,500) in Nigeria, may present a barrier for some potential users.

El Gabry highlighted Jumia’s extensive experience in navigating the African retail and merchandise landscape, underscoring their readiness to establish business models and transportation networks to support this venture. Jumia envisions expanding the distribution of Starlink products to all 11 African countries in which it operates.