Meet the grant recipients of the 2018 Microsoft Airband Initiative
Microsoft has announced the eight early-stage companies selected for its third annual Airband Grant Fund. This year 3 companies from Africa become grant recipients. These are ColdHubs – Nigeria, MeshPower – Rwanda and Agsol – Kenya.
This brings the total number of grant partners in Africa to 19. Other recipients of the initiative are Spectra Wireless – Ghana, VisionNet – DRC, My Digital Bridge – Namibia, iSizwe – South Africa, C3 – Malawi, Mawingu – Kenya amongst others. Last year 6 African entrepreneurs were awarded in its 2nd year.
“As a global technology company,
we believe we have a responsibility and a great opportunity
to help close this gap”. – Microsoft
The Airband Initiative grant from Microsoft is a partnership with equipment makers, internet, energy access providers and local entrepreneurs. With this partnership Microsoft believes the initiative will provide access that unconnected and underserved communities need to thrive.
The grant partners receive financing, technology, mentorship, networking opportunities and other support. This helps to “scale the start-ups’ innovative new technologies, services and business models”.
Microsoft says “today, internet access is as essential as electricity. It empowers entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses. Farmers to implement precision agriculture, doctors to improve community health and students to do better in school. But almost half the world’s population is still not online. Often because they live in underserved areas, and therefore miss out on opportunities to take advantage of and become part of the digital economy. As a global technology company, we believe we have a responsibility and a great opportunity to help close this gap“.
Grant recipients of the 2018 Microsoft Airband Initiative
Based in Kigali, Rwanda, MeshPower focuses on providing energy to off-grid regions. They’ve developed a smart, internet connected, PV DC microgrid which delivers 48V DC energy to customers at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions.
Based in Owerii, Nigeria, Cold Hubs provides solar-powered walk-in cold rooms to help eliminate the impact of food spoilage, which affects 470 million farmers globally. Their next phase of innovation involves equipping the cold rooms with Wi-Fi hotspots.
Agsol, based in Nairobi, Kenya, is a startup that manufactures solar powered agro-processing machines for off-grid farming communities. Their machines process crops such as maize flour, milled rice, and grated cassava and excess power is used for lights, phone chargers, and small appliances.
Microsoft shares the innovative story of ColdHubs, a 2018 Microsoft Airband Initiative grant recipient
ColdHubs is another organization finding innovative ways to tackle the broadband access challenge. In Owerri, Nigeria, ColdHubs is transforming their refrigerated crop storage rooms into Wi-Fi hot spots using TVWS technology. The company aims to empower smallholder farmers with the ability to earn better livelihoods. Their solar-powered crop storage facilities help reduce food spoilage, which causes 470 million smallholder farmers to lose 25 percent of their annual income. Farmers who use ColdHubs can extend the freshness of their fruits and vegetables from two to about 21 days, reducing post-harvest loss by 80 percent. By turning these facilities into Wi-Fi “Farm Connect Centers,” ColdHubs will enable farmers to get online and access agricultural training, resources to improve crop yields and marketing and digital skills training.