British International Investment

Connecting communities with digital infrastructure

Internet access helps businesses grow and strengthens local economies, but requires infrastructure in place. Investments in such vital digital infrastructure have the potential to be truly transformational for people across Africa and South Asia.


Improving access to affordable, good-quality internet is central to development, strengthening the growth of businesses and local economies, and is a key part of Sustainable Development Goal 9. The World Bank estimates that a 10 per cent growth in people connected to the internet leads to GDP growth of 1.38 per cent.

Yet more than 3.5 billion people around the world are still unconnected, and many more are poorly served.

Developing the infrastructure needed for the internet, such as fibre networks, is essential to improving internet access. This is how Liquid Telecom, the largest independent fibre and cloud provider in Africa, is bringing broadband to some of the most isolated and unconnected places across the continent. Our investment helped accelerate the firm’s ambition to connect Cape Town to Cairo by fibre network. It is also expanding infrastructure into Central and West Africa, including to places that lack affordable and reliable broadband today, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



In Nepal, WorldLink has grown into the country’s largest private internet service provider, laying over 8,000km of fibre network and reaching remote places such as Karnali, the most mountainous and underdeveloped province in Nepal. And in South Africa, Vumatel, which we invest in through the investment fund Convergence Partners, has installed 16,000km of fibre network across the country to date, providing 600,000 homes with access to fibre connectivity for the first time.

As well as fibre networks, businesses are using innovative technology to bring communities low-cost internet access. This is particularly important in Africa where only half the population is connected to the internet.

The most widely available form of internet connection is mobile data, which is expensive. As an alternative, poa! Internet provides low-cost internet to individuals and small businesses in low-income neighbourhoods.

The company’s innovative use of wi-fi technology lets it offer an unlimited data broadband service at substantially lower prices than leading cellular operators, and provide connectivity in places other technologies like fibre networks can’t reach or are uneconomical. For example, poa! operates in Kibera, the continent’s largest urban slum.

We invest in poa! Internet through Novastar Ventures, a Nairobi-based venture capital firm.

We’ve invested $700 million in connectivity, supporting over 100 companies across Africa and South Asia. This ranges from backing specialist investment funds like Convergence Partners to supporting companies developing digital transmission networks, like Liquid Telecom and WorldLink.

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