USTDA Awards Grant for Township Internet Access in South Africa

USTDA grants funding to Ilitha for expanding internet access to South Africa’s townships using Mesh++ technology.

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has awarded a grant to Ilitha Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (Ilitha) for a feasibility study that will help provide reliable and affordable internet access to more than five million people living in South Africa’s townships. The study will include a pilot of a solar-powered Wi-Fi solution offered by Illinois-based company MeshPlusPlus Inc. (Mesh++). Ilitha selected Georgia-based Vernonburg Group LLC to conduct the study.

Throughout our history, USTDA’s program has enabled our partners to navigate the rapidly changing technology landscape and envision possibilities for their digital future. 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.

Enoh T. Ebong, Director, USTDA

USTDA’s study will evaluate the technical options and associated costs for expanding Ilitha’s fixed wireless access networks in South Africa’s townships. The pilot project component of the study will take place in the Eastern Cape Province and assess solar-powered WiFi technology as a solution for expanding Ilitha’s network infrastructure in townships with unreliable electricity access.

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. The demand for Ilitha’s proposition has now increased beyond the high-density township areas. To address this demand, we have had to look for high-capacity radio solutions that will help us deliver affordable, quality broadband to rural and lower density areas. The Mesh++ solution fits the profile of the technology that can fulfill the broadband demands of the customers in these markets. We are extremely grateful to USTDA for agreeing to fund the deployment of Mesh++ in the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality, which is in the Eastern Cape Province. This investment will not only enable Ilitha to test and validate this technology but will also provide an affordable broadband service to the people who need it most.

Vuyani Jarana, CEO, Ilitha

Fully connecting the country will help South Africa unleash its full economic potential and bring critical services such as education and healthcare to populations that do not currently have reliable access to them. Investing in secure connectivity will also provide opportunities for job creation. This grant is a demonstration of the U.S. government’s commitment to forming partnerships between U.S. and African companies in this important sector.

Reuben Brigety II, U.S. Ambassador to South Africa

USTDA’s study advances the Digital Transformation with Africa initiative, announced at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December 2022, to expand digital access on the continent. It also supports the Prosper Africa initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa and the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.

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