Africa is a demographic time-bomb. Its population is forecast to more than double by 2050 to become the most populous continent. Improving primary school education, particularly in poor rural areas, is critically important to increasing employment opportunities whilst reducing population growth, deforestation and wildlife destruction, all of which matter to us.
We believe that digital education and enhanced pedagogy, combined with improved teaching standards and better data collection and analytics, are an essential part of the solution, delivering better quality education at lower cost than historical methodologies. New developments and falling prices in digital education, connectivity and power solutions mean that, in rural areas, the cost of operating a digitally-enabled school will very soon be less than the cost of operating an unconnected, text book-based school.
We seek to deliver world-class digital educational and health content to rural Africa, offering an integrated – and therefore more cost-effective - approach to the provision of content, connectivity and power.
In Zambia, iSchool has digitised the entire primary-school curriculum so that it is animated and interactive with written and spoken word in English and 8 Zambian languages - a unique achievement. The cost of delivering iSchool's world-class digital content is currently around $1-$2 per child per month. Mwabu, iSchool's UK parent company, is taking the Zambian content and expanding into several other territories, as well as developing CAPS-aligned content for grades 4-7 Maths and Science in South Africa. Snapplify is a digital rights management company that manages the distribution of major publishers' content across several African territories, focussing primarily on educational content to schools.
Mobile Data and internet are essential for education and business opportunities everywhere and are key to reducing rural poverty. Access to the internet creates economic opportunities and prosperity within a community. Our goal is to drive down the cost of connectivity in the most rural and remote areas, creating rural hubs 'ZayoHubs' that enable communities to connect with outside service and information providers, giving them direct access to agricultural, health, financial advice and services and markets.
Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) is rolling out low-cost mobile phone sites in previously unconnected rural areas in DRC and Cameroon under contract to Orange on a revenue-share basis. AMN has a similar revenue-share contract with MTN to build 160 rural telecom sites in Zambia during 2018, all of which will be financed, owned and operated by AMN.
Developments in solar panel and battery technologies are changing the paradigm for power in rural Africa. Baybridge is seeking to offer an integrated solution for the provision of low-cost off-grid power to rural communities by sharing surplus power from telecom sites with schools or clinics located in those communities.
Baybridge has invested into Mobile Power to roll-out their light-weight, portable, rechargeable Lithium batteries for use in rural areas. Microprocessors in the battery packs record essential usage and positional data to allow optimization of the system design and pricing, and reduce mis-use / theft. The batteries have a built-in light and multiple USB charging ports so are suitable for home and micro-business use.
The batteries will be located in the 'ZayoHubs' operated in conjunction with our telecom sites. Consumers pay a deposit for the battery and thereafter only pay for the power they consume, swapping out depleted batteries for recharged ones (think of how you pay for BBQ gas bottle products).
Western Power is developing a c. 150MW run-of-the-river hydro power project in Western Zambia in partnership with Infraco Africa. Most of the major milestones have been reached. Baybridge was an early investor into the project, which is expected to reach financial close in mid 2019, adding valuable new clean energy into the Zambian national grid.
Baybridge Investments has an agency agreement with RS Technologies Inc., a Canadian company that designs, engineers and manufactures composite utility poles, to market their products in Africa. The high performance poles are used in transmission, distribution and communication applications and offer a lighter, more durable and longer-lasting solution over wood, steel and concrete alternatives. In many instances, the environmentally friendly poles deliver the lowest total installed and lifecycle cost solution of any pole on the market. With over 20,000 poles installed in North America since 2003, RS has over 300 customers globally and is ISO 9001:2008 registered. Baybridge is currently testing the technology with Eskom in South Africa and working with the South African Bureau of Standards to develop agreed specifications for the poles. Hybrid poles will remain as a niche offering, suitable mostly for coastal environments where corrosion is a problem, or difficult to access areas, such as mountains, forests and swamps, or where way leaves are restricted. We expect that a manufacturing facility will eventually be established in Africa, if market demand justifies it.
Baybridge Investments has stakes in a variety of service businesses, including Acteon - an international offshore oil services company that includes KKR as a co-investor; Sunbird Group - a company that is seeking to replicate the WeWork office model but with an East African focus; Positioneering - a global precise positioning business for use by offshore vessels and onshore agriculture.
Deforestation and poaching are frequently encountered across sub-Saharan Africa. We aim to do our bit to reduce that in Zambia by creating world class wildlife and leisure destinations that are affordable for local markets - and not just wealthy tourists - that provide jobs and support for local communities.
In Zambia we are trialing a project whereby visitors to high-end game lodges based in internationally respected National Parks (including Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi) are invited to donate to iSchool's Bambisana programme, to fund improved education in primary schools near the lodges. This will hopefully make the next generation of Zambians in those important areas more conservation-minded, whilst also making them more employable.
Baybridge has interests in two small conservation projects in Zambia. The Lotri Bay Conservation Area www.lotribay.com, on Lake Kariba, is a joint project with the local community that is currently under development. It entails the restocking of wildlife, elimination of over-fishing and measures to attract tourists to the area, in order to create jobs for the community. A second project is also underway just outside Livingstone, an easy drive to the Victoria Falls.