Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Digital Inclusion

SA's Isizwe launches Kayamandi low-cost prepaid fiber project

Article Image
A prepaid and low-cost fiber project went live in South African township Kayamandi in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape on Monday, with ambitions to roll out connectivity to tens of thousands of previously unconnected residents and spread similar projects across Africa.

The Kayamandi Fibre Project is a collaboration between Internet company Isizwe and partners Paygozo and Vulacoin.

As of November 7, 2022, over 3,000 Kayamandi homes now have access to uncapped prepaid fiber at a cost of just R5 (US$0.28) per day with Internet speeds of more than 100 Mbit/s.

The goal is to extend the fiber to all 30,000 homes in Kayamandi.

Isizwe said it has open-sourced the township fiber blueprint, providing a step-by-step guide for how to build networks at a low cost without compromising quality and then make it easy for consumers to buy airtime.

"We're trying to do for fiber what Shoprite Checkers did for food and Capitec did for banking, namely bring down the costs so that more people can have access to more Internet, and in the process help entrepreneurs build big businesses that can create job opportunities for thousands of youngsters in townships," said Steven Briggs, CEO of Isizwe.

Isizwe explained that it can roll out the fiber at such a low cost because townships are traditionally such high-density areas that you can pass more homes per 100 meters of fiber than you can in regular suburbs, which means you can charge a lower retail rate and get the same return on investment.

"Our goal has been to create a fundable template for township fiber so that local entrepreneurs can access funding to build fiber infrastructure in any township in SA," explained Richard Henn, CEO of Paygozo, which is the prepaid ISP enabling the Kayamandi Fibre Project.

"Fiber Internet is not rocket science. It's about getting the civils properly delivered. Instead of having to hire technicians and engineers and specialized skills, we decided to outsource to ASLA, a company that specializes in building township infrastructure. South Africa has an enormous and under-utilized construction management sector, which we believe can be applied towards fiber deployments, and which can achieve lower build-costs and higher quality than can be achieved in-house," Henn added.

Expanding ambitions

Based on the results of the commercial model, Isizwe intends to expand the project to other countries.

"We're already working on plans to penetrate the metropolitan conurbation stretching from Lagos to Accra. The truth is that most of world is more like South Africa than it is like OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries like England. Which means solutions that work in South Africa are more applicable to the world than solutions that work in England," said Alan Knott-Craig Jr, chairman of Isizwe and the founder of nonprofit sister company Project Isizwe.

"At the core of our mission is the fight against digital apartheid. The gap between those that have fast affordable Internet, and those that don't. Those that have uncapped home fiber, and those that don't. The Kayamandi Fibre Project is our small way of trying to tackling digital apartheid," Knott-Craig said.

Power problems

Rolling out fiber in underserved areas comes with some technical challenges, one of the key ones being electricity. In South Africa, ongoing power cuts via load shedding make this even harder.

"You can't ignore electricity. The business model of township fiber depends on people using the Internet 24/7. Which means you need to solve for power to the home. If you adopt a strategy of installing energy at the periphery, then your capital costs get too expensive," Isizwe said.

Paygozo has found a novel way of dealing with the electricity problem by using world-first technology – sending direct current (DC) power over fiber.

"The solution is in the early stages, but if successful there will be a template for any fiber company that needs to solve for power in the home by pushing electricity from the center of the network."

Another partner in the project is Vulacoin, a blockchain wallet that was designed specifically to allow for the piecemeal purchase of airtime, enabling pay-as-you-go ISPs like Paygozo to sell services into the informal economy.

Other partners include pan-African technology group Liquid Intelligent Technologies and online investing platform EasyEquities.

Related posts:

*Top image source: Image by Freepik.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: Pan-African fintech KamaPay

This month's hot startup is pan-African fintech KamaPay, which helps individuals and businesses make cross-border payments on the continent.


Afretec awards $3.3M in grants to African research teams

The African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec) has awarded grants worth $300,000 each to 11 university research teams across Africa to advance digital technologies.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.


Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.


Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up