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OPIC Achieves $1 Billion in Global Information & Communications Technology Financing

Friday, October 7, 2016

(OPIC)  More than 60 percent of households across the world lack internet access

Broadband Access Critical To Economic Growth – 10 percent increase in broadband penetration correlates with a 1.3 percent increase in GDP in developing countries

New commitments in Kenya, India and Burma helped OPIC reach this milestone

WASHINGTON – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, today announced that the agency has surpassed $1 billion in current financing support to global information and communications technology (ICT) businesses. Not only do two out of three households in developing countries lack internet access, but those who do have access often have limited and costly mobile services that lack the quality and utility of high-speed broadband. Broadband access is critical to economic growth – a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration correlates with a 1.3 percent increase in GDP in developing countries, according to a World Bank study.

OPIC is supporting projects in emerging markets that will provide internet and mobile voice access to hundreds of thousands of people and businesses, allowing them to access information and services via the web, grow their businesses, increase productivity and improve their economic prospects. Recent technology investments – Mawingu Networks Limited in Kenya, Tikona Digital Networks in India, and Apollo Towers Myanmar in Burma – helped OPIC reach this milestone.

“More than half the people in the world do not have access to the internet. To change this, we must focus on both access and affordability of this technology,” said Elizabeth L. Littlefield, OPIC President and CEO. “OPIC is working hard to provide financing to private-sector led efforts where they are needed most. While this $1 billion in commitments is an important milestone, it’s really just the start. Information and communications technology is a crucial driver for economic growth and is absolutely essential for emerging markets.”

OPIC’s $1 billion in global information and communications technology financing is supporting 31 projects in 25 countries. OPIC is partnering with the private sector to address the challenge of providing affordable access to voice and data communication services in underserved markets, where many of the world’s poorest people are excluded from the benefits of reliable, affordable connectivity, including access to key tools that support sectors from healthcare to education, as well as entrepreneurs and small businesses. Infrastructure and affordability are major barriers to bringing the benefits of technology to these communities. OPIC provides financing to telecommunications, communications infrastructure and technology firms through investments in private equity funds, credit facilities to individual businesses, and through risk-sharing and guaranties supporting innovative industry efforts.

Three new projects helped OPIC reach $1 billion in global information and communications technology financing milestone:

OPIC committed $4.1 million in financing to Mawingu Networks Limited to support solar-powered wireless internet access in rural Kenya. Using a network of solar-powered “nomadic” wireless internet stations, Mawingu provides last-mile connectivity access to areas that cannot economically access the Internet. OPIC’s loan will allow commercial expansion based on Mawingu’s promising initial pilot operations with TV White Space (TVWS) connectivity for off-grid internet access. Mawingu Networks was able to establish their current operating model using an initial grant in 2013 from Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). They received equity funding from Angel Investor Jim Forster, Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., and Microsoft Corporation two years after their first phase of support.

OPIC committed $171 million in financing to Tikona Digital Networks in India to support the expansion of a low-cost and rapidly scalable wireless broadband network in India, a country that lacks widespread broadband service availability due, in part, to poor wireline infrastructure. OPIC support to Tikona will promote internet adoption among residential and commercial consumers and advance this critical foundation for economic and social development.

OPIC provided $250 million in financing to Apollo Towers Myanmar Ltd. for the development of a network of 2,500 telecommunications towers across Burma, one of the last places in the world without widespread infrastructure for this technology. Only three percent of Burma’s 50 million residents had access to mobile phones in 2011. OPIC’s support to Apollo Towers is expected to create the infrastructure that will contribute to a goal of 75 percent mobile access for Burma’s people by 2016. In addition to bringing widespread information access to millions of people, OPIC’s support to Apollo Towers will provide a valuable demonstration effect for development in this newly-opened market.

Since its founding in 1971, OPIC has invested over $5 billion in ICTs. OPIC’s commitment to the sector supports the U.S. Government’s Global Connect Initiative, an effort led by the U.S. State Department to close the digital divide and connect 1.5 billion additional people to the internet by 2020.