High data costs in Africa have long been cited as an impediment to greater use of Internet services on the continent, even though Africans technically have full Internet access.
Now, a new service that will promote increased access to low-cost Internet services and expand social, digital and financial inclusion will soon be rolled out in Zimbabwe through a partnership by two digital and telecommunications companies - Cassava Fintech International (CFI) and Liquid Telecom Group (LTG).
The service, which will be made available through the Sasai wi-fi finder, will be "rolled out at thousands of hotspots across Africa", and allows "greater connectivity in a variety of locations, including retail, healthcare, education, government and small business trade facilities".
CFI Group chief executive officer Mr Darlington Mandivenga said the service to provide an "expansive network of data access points" would be facilitated through tie-ups with various service providers.
"We see this launch as a critical piece in the social digital inclusion agenda we are driving on the continent," said Mr Mandivenga.
"Through Sasai wi-fi finder, we plan to establish an expansive network of data access points across Africa and build 'Africa's missing network' through partnering with broadband providers, internet service providers and local community hubs."
LTG, which boasts of Africa's largest independent fibre network stretching over 70 000km, will be providing the infrastructural backbone for the new offering.
"We are proud that our best-in-class broadband infrastructure network is the backbone of this service and is enabling more Africans to access the digital and financial benefits of the internet," said LTG chief operating officer Ahmad Mokhles. "This partnership is providing consumers with affordable wi-fi access, while local franchisees and partners are able to grow their businesses and the economies of their countries. This is a true example of the transformative power technology can have across the value chain."
Digital and financial integration is considered as integral in facilitating business and narrowing digital divide in Africa, particularly at a time when Covid-19 has affected businesses that depend on human contact.
A GSMA report last year claimed that affordability remains a significant barrier to internet adoption in Africa, resulting in social, digital and financial exclusion.
The Sasai wi-fi finder will be an in-app feature on the Sasai app that will allow users to identify hotspots at which they can access affordable data.
Sasai chief operating officer Mr Tapera Mushoriwa said: "When a new smartphone user has registered on the Sasai app, or when an existing user opens the app, they receive automatic notification "pop-up" alerts showing available #Sasaiwi-fi finder hotspots nearby.
"They also receive additional services, such as distinct indoor and outdoor wi-fi hotspot markers, directions to wi-fi hotspots, session usage, range and signal strength details - making it easier than ever before for African users to access the Internet."
The partnership between CFI and LTG will see the progressive roll-out of the Sasai wi-fi finder in other countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.
CFI has core operations in mobile money, social payment services, digital banking, international remittances and mobile micro insurance.