SpaceX’s satellite company, Starlink, is set to team up with Jumia Technologies AG, an e-commerce company operating in 11 African markets, to enhance satellite broadband services across Africa. Jumia plans to provide Starlink’s satellite terminals and kits in select African countries, starting with Nigeria this month. The move is intended to create market exclusivity in sales and distribution and position Jumia as a critical player in the sector.
The project represents a new approach to bridging the digital divide in Africa, where internet penetration is still low, with data by the Nigerian Communications Commission revealing that only 47% of the population has access to the internet. Starlink aims to connect people in remote and underserved areas with high-speed internet access by using thousands of small satellites that communicate through user terminals.
Jumia’s strategic foothold in the market and experience in navigating retail and merchandise operations in Africa enhance its role in the partnership. The exclusive collaboration aims to expand access to satellite broadband services to areas previously inaccessible or costly to serve.
While big tech firms have embarked on previous endeavors to bring high-speed internet to Africa, they have often been unsuccessful. For instance, Facebook’s ambitious drone project and Alphabet’s Project Loon were ultimately discontinued. However, Starlink’s satellite constellation, designed to provide internet access to remote and underserved areas, holds the potential to overcome the challenges posed by traditional satellite internet.
While the high cost of standard Starlink terminals in Nigeria could pose a barrier, Jumia’s long-term plan to distribute Starlink’s products within its African market presence is expected to expand local ISPs’ willingness to broaden their services further.