Despite weak infrastructure and poor power supply, Nigeria stands out as one of Africa’s top tech hubs — something that was confirmed last year when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited the capital, Lagos. But to boost innovation even further, the country desperately needs a well-functioning Wi-Fi system, which Tizeti has been trying to provide through its solar-powered towers. The startup announced today that it is partnering with Facebook to expand the social network’s Express Wi-Fi offering in Nigeria, thus providing internet access to even more people in the country.
Facebook launched Express Wi-Fi to help expand connectivity to underserved locations around the world by working with carriers, internet service providers, and local entrepreneurs. The partnership with Tizeti aims to provide a fast and affordable public Wi-Fi hotspot service in Nigeria in such areas as markets, cafes, and public outdoor spaces.
Tizeti already has 60 solar-powered Wi-Fi towers across Lagos that provide high-speed, unlimited Wi-Fi access to two-thirds of the city, according to Tizeti cofounder and CEO Kendall Ananyi. The chief executive and his team found a smart way to cut down on costs: rely on solar energy rather than diesel.
“Even though Nigeria is one of Africa’s most prominent countries, we still suffer frequent electricity outages,” Ananyi said, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We need to harness the natural resource we have in Nigeria and look at other ways of being able to give millions of people access to reliable, affordable, and socially responsible power — and this is where solar comes into play.”
Having worked at Microsoft, Ananyi is well-versed in tech and connectivity. He also spent time at ExxonMobil, where he focused on some of the company’s deepwater projects off the Nigerian coast. His cofounder, Ifeanyi Okonkwo, is a former Blackberry employee. The duo founded Tizeti in Lagos in 2012 and participated in Y Combinator’s Winter 2017 batch. Tizeti has grown to a team of 80 and recently raised a $2.1 million seed round from investors that include YC, Social Capital, and Zeno Ventures.
While Tizeti’s Wi-Fi offering requires installation paired with a monthly subscription fee that starts at $25, Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi is available to anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled device and the ability to receive a one-time SMS, according to a statement. Users can connect on most Android and iOS phones, tablets, and laptops without switching SIM cards or having a data plan. Prices range from $0.16 for 100MB to $6.50 for 10GB.
Facebook and Tizeti plan to roll out hundreds of hotspots in Nigeria over the next few months. In addition to Nigeria, Express Wi-Fi is also live in Kenya, Tanzania, India, and Indonesia.