The sub-Saharan countries in Africa face a connectivity crunch as Meta announces discontinuation of its affordable Express Wi-Fi internet services, introduced in the underserved region five years ago to boost connectivity.
Formerly branded as Facebook, Meta issued a notice stating its plans to bring down the program by the end of the year. However, in countries like Kenya, these services have already been cut off since mid-December 2020.
Reportedly, the decision to discontinue the plan comes a year after Meta partnered with Eutelsat Konnect, a leading satellite operator, to provide affordable internet services in Nigeria, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Express Wi-Fi had its roots established in other countries including Burkina Faso, Malawi, Senegal and Guinea, amongst the other 30 countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
Meta recently commented that it is terminating the Express Wi-Fi program in almost 30 countries but plans to work closely with its partners to help minimize the effect on their customer’s connectivity and businesses.
As per credible reports, the social media conglomerate teamed up with partners like ISPs and mobile operators to ensure connectivity via Wi-Fi hotspots across public places like markets and schools in urban and rural areas.
According to reports, the plan was to curb the internet crisis in emerging countries like Africa, which has the lowest connectivity. Presently, around 28% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa have proper internet connectivity as per GSMA 2021 mobile report, which is very low as compared to other regions like Europe, where the connectivity is over 80%.
For the uninitiated, Meta is extending its 45,000 km square Africa subsea cable throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, as a part of its low-price internet plan.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has reportedly estimated that the internet economy in Africa has a growth potential to surpass $180 billion, driven by rapid urbanization, digital consumption and fast smartphone penetration.