TowerCo gets Shs156b for rural telecom expansion

The investment seeks to narrow the digital divide, unlock new opportunities for rural communities, and foster sustainable development in Uganda. Photo / File  

What you need to know:

  • The 506 new towers will be shared by multiple mobile network operators, addressing challenges that have historically hindered telecom expansion in rural areas.

TowerCo of Africa Uganda has secured Shs156b long-term financing from European development finance partners to support new investment aimed at significantly improving mobile phone network coverage in rural areas of Uganda.

The partnership signals a significant step forward in narrowing the digital divide, unlocking new opportunities for rural communities, and fostering sustainable development in Uganda. 

Mr Geoffrey Donnels Oketayot, the TowerCo chief executive officer, said the deployment of hundreds of new telecom towers across Uganda will make a significant leap towards ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital age.

“The new financing backing from European development finance partners is a testament to our shared vision of connecting communities and fostering economic growth here in the heart of Africa,” he said, noting that the development partners include the European Investment Bank,  Development Bank of Austria and Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries.

The 10-year financing will support installation of 506 new telecom towers, strategically positioned in rural areas that currently lack mobile network access or where existing mobile networks are saturated. 

The telecom towers will mainly be powered by renewable energy and enable rural communities to access 4G and 5G services, mobile money solutions, and foster financial inclusion.

“At present only 65 percent of Uganda has mobile network coverage. The new investment reinforces the imperative to address coverage challenges and will play a significant role in advancing the country’s 95 percent coverage goal,” Mr Oketayot said, adding: “The European backed network investment will overcome a key barrier holding back telecom access in rural Africa.”

The 506 new towers will be shared by multiple mobile network operators, addressing challenges that have historically hindered telecom expansion in rural areas, ensuring commercial viability for network expansion and providing more comprehensive and inclusive network access for rural communities.

Mr Oketayot said a significant portion of the new towers will be powered by solar energy, reducing the risk of fuel and generator theft, and aligning with TowerCo dedication to responsible infrastructure development and climate action.

Mr Thomas Östros, the European Investment Bank vice president, said the bank has committed to tackling the digital divide in Africa and is ready to support TowerCo’s engagement to transform rural connectivity across Uganda. 

“Bridging the digital divide is a key focus of the EU Global Gateway initiative and crucial for inclusive development, and this partnership where the Bank is involved,” he said.

Mr Östros further explained that with both project and development finance partners exemplify a shared commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of rural populations.

Nada Shall, the liaison officer East-Africa for BIO, said the project aligns with the goals of empowering communities through sustainable development, and the company anticipates transformative effects in rural areas.