MainOne grants MEST Nigeria free Internet access. Is there a catch?

by | Oct 29, 2018

Earlier in the month of July, MainOne CEO, Funke Opeke visited MEST Africa’s headquarters in Ghana and on that trip met with its founder, Jørn Lyseggen.

The focal point of that conversation was on the possibility of granting the Nigerian division of MEST Africa free internet to enable operations.

Barely months after, on the 7th of September 2018 to be exact, a Tweet from MEST director of investor relations, Neku Atawodi-Edun, hinted at what might be an interesting partnership with MainOne.

https://twitter.com/NekuAE/status/1038064755959910401?s=19

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The announcement was merely 42 words in length but it visibly portrayed true excitement and praises for the Internet company’s CEO, Funke Opeke for providing MEST Nigeria with free high speed Internet.

For Neku it was one mission accomplished, because even though it was the meeting between the two company’s founders that sealed the deal, the entire partnership, it turns out, was her idea.

But should this come off as a big deal?

Globally, Internet broadband penetration has increased as a result of various fibre optic technologies being employed. Amongst other reasons, fibre optic connections are known to have faster speeds and can as well cover much longer longer distances.

Of the five active submarine fibre optic connections that form the core network in Nigeria, one belongs to MainOne Cable. More so, since there are infrastructural challenges associated with last-mile delivery — connecting the Base Transmission Stations, offices as well as homes — Internet broadband connectivity is both sparsely available and borderline expensive for users.

Techpoint gathered, when it reached out for details of the partnership, that MainOne bore the entire cost of laying the infrastructure that now serves MEST Nigeria Internet at a speed of 45mbps. On top of that, it comes exclusively free of charge. A gift if it can be so called.

MEST is an offspring of a global company, the Meltwater Foundation. Meltwater Foundation, through its many community development and outreach programmes, has invested in African entrepreneurs in the past ten years.

MEST Ghana

A cross-section of student entrepreneurs at MEST Africa HQ in Accra, Ghana

The same commitment saw it extend its footprint to Nigeria in 2015, after taking a similar leap into Ghana in 2008. For that reason, a reward of sorts for such noble works might be in place. In fact, information received from both MEST and MainOne suggests this.

“One of the things that made MainOne more disposed to the partnership is that there is a track record,” says Nosa Omusi, MEST Nigeria head of communication.

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Even so, the statement could be discredited on the sole fact that MEST could possibly not have the best amongst the best track records in the Internet sphere. This is in spite of the fact that businesses, which directly or indirectly get Internet from MainOne, have to pay for it. Ironically, MEST Ghana, like other businesses, pays for the same services its Nigerian counterpart is getting for free.

However, Funke’s cheeky explanation while speaking at a masterclass event held at MEST Nigeria’s premises on the 23rd of October, lays the matter to rest.

“Our platform for CSR generally is ‘education’ and ‘entrepreneurship’. We try to support hubs and businesses so as to make their journey a little lighter,” says the MainOne CEO.

On the basis of education and entrepreneurship, as clearly highlighted above, it is safe to conclude that MEST Nigeria has satisfactorily met the necessary conditions to activate a full-scale MainOne CSR package.

Biggest winners

Up until MainOne “generously” laid their infrastructure — a result of the partnership bearing in mind — there was no fibre optic connection on Adeyemi Lawson road, Ikoyi, Lagos where MEST Nigeria office is situated.

That alone is one big (possibly the biggest) challenge removed. Reason being that laying up infrastructure to service MEST alone was unlikely the game plan, and MainOne certainly sees this.

For instance, when Yaba finally got the nod on having fibre optic broadband around 2013, it was hardly the thriving tech hub that it is now.

As a matter of fact, commercial operations in Yaba were mostly led by traditional businesses. The Silicon Valley-inspired transformation is a product of evolution.

In stark contrast to that, Ikoyi — or its immediate environs — in 2018 has many private businesses that are technologically oriented. Getting internet to more businesses — including those in retail ISP operations — and residential homes could appeal to MainOne.

Another scenario to consider is that the free Internet partnership might not be indefinite, as it is highly subject to yearly renewal. Should MainOne repeal on agreement, MEST Nigeria could automatically find itself as a paying customer of the former.

But for such a day (if it ever comes) is why MEST Nigeria will look to make the most of the resources at hand (free fast-speed Internet) to attract enough high-value startups into its network. Come to think of it, MEST entire operations for ten years has been wholly funded as an NGO. So the days it will begin to self-sustain itself might appear very imminent.

Either way, it’s still a win-win situation for both institutions.

Ifeanyi Ndiomewese
Ifeanyi Ndiomewese

Ifeanyi is a desk reporter-turned administrator. Outside of work, I love to read and travel.

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