NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom — In 2002, Elon Musk founded SpaceX—an aerospace manufacturer and service for space transportation. In 2019, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, the company launched 60 Starlink satellites providing internet service, all of which reached an altitude of 342 miles (550 km) above Earth.
As of October 2023, Starlink is accessible in six African countries: Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Furthermore, it will be available in another eight African countries at the end of the calendar year, as the company is aiming to provide fast and reliable internet service to everyone around the globe. These countries are Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Tanzania, Ghana and Eswatini.
About the Starlink Satellite
This satellite network provides low-cost internet and is currently available in 40 countries around the world. Each satellite—weighing around 1,760 lbs (800 kilos) at launch—has an approximate lifespan of five years and travels in low Earth orbit. While there are 4,519 Starlink satellites as of July, SpaceX is hoping to launch as many as 42,000 satellites in total.
“We’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the internet in space,” said Elon Musk. Thanks to Starlink, people across the globe can have access to health services, education and communication support during natural disasters. This is a milestone for Africa, which has the world’s lowest internet distribution, especially in remote and underserved areas.
African countries Where Starlink Is Accessible
Only Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique have access to Starlink’s high-speed and reliable, uncapped internet connections. The satellite is well-suited for the rural and medically underserved areas in which the internet infrastructure is poor or lacking. In Zambia for example, only 44% of the population have access to the internet, and those who do are usually faced with slow speeds and high costs.
The launch of Starlink does not only benefit consumers, but it could also positively impact the countries’ economies. Indeed, the service may attract new businesses to invest in the country in question, as well as enable employment in the telecommunications sector. All residents must do is place an order for a Starlink kit on the company’s website.
Innovative Partnership with Jumia Technologies
Elon Musk’s Starlink has partnered with Jumia Technologies AG—an e-commerce company—to expand its broadband services across Africa. Although there are traditional broadband providers in Africa—such as MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd.—Jumia is the first company to offer Starlink’s satellite terminals and other similar equipment to areas lacking city mapping and formal addresses, starting in Nigeria.
Indeed, the expansion of infrastructure into remote areas has been a challenge for many telecommunication providers. Some major technology companies have attempted to deliver high-speed broadband across Africa in creative ways; however, these efforts have been unfruitful, leading to the use of traditional approaches like undersea cables and fiber optics. For instance, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook have attempted to use drones or helium-filled balloons in different projects.
A Glimpse Into the Future
Elon Musk’s network of Starlink satellites is increasingly connecting the African continent to the rest of the world, providing many Africans—especially those living in remote areas—with high-speed, reliable internet service. The partnership with Jumia Technologies holds promise, as the e-commerce company is playing a pivotal role in transforming Africa’s digital landscape.
– Abigail Roch