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Revolutionising Townships with Fiber: TK of fibertime Unites Nelson Mandela’s Vision with High-Speed Connectivity.

Entrepreneur of the Month: Tinyiko Khoza from fibertime​

By Cebelihle Mthethwa.

In an age where technology has become integral to our daily lives, access to reliable internet connectivity remains a pressing issue for many communities, particularly in townships. However, through fibertime, entrepreneur Tinyiko Khoza (TK) has taken up the challenge and is bridging the digital divide and revolutionising townships’ economic landscape through fibre connectivity.

Previously known as PayGoZo (Pay-as-you-go Zone), fibertime is a fibre internet solution designed for personal convenience and enhanced experience, aiming to bridge the digital divide with affordable high speed. According to TK, he has always had a profound vision to uplift historically marginalised areas. So, when Alan Knott-Craig and Rich Henn – the co-founders of PayGoZo – reached out to him in 2021 about their idea of connecting the people in the Stellenbosch community, he jumped at the opportunity. In September 2022, they officially launched their business.

When the team launched the Kayamandi fiber Project, PayGoZo was the brand that helped them launch the project and prove that there was a demand for fiber in townships. As their journey continued, they realised that they needed to do more than just connect a home to the internet.

“We needed to enhance the full experience of the internet for people, to help them get more. We needed a new name. We needed fibertime. Our business has a strong foundation – we are using the same team that delivered PayGoZo to Kayamandi – and are now helping people to discover a new way to experience the internet,” said TK, the Head of Communities of the business.

“I fell in love with the idea of fibertime because it revolves around the immense potential of the township economy. It focuses on understanding how we consume, behave, and buy patterns, which deeply concerns me as a businessperson. I am passionate about supporting businesses within townships and ensuring that the communities at large are empowered as consumers. This extends to providing any service that can serve their needs effectively.”

He added that while his business partners, Alan and Rich, had over fifteen years of experience in internet technology, they had never taken a project to the townships before. The team built their first fiber technology through strategic collaboration and research in Kayamandi and hopes to tap into more townships in order to bridge the digital divide.

“Tapping into a new environment presented its fair share of challenges, particularly in navigating an untapped market where fiber internet infrastructure had yet to be established. Despite being a community activist and hailing from the township myself, the fiber project was a whole new territory for me. It meant that we had to embark on a collective learning journey while actively working on the project, bridging diverse cultures and backgrounds to deliver value for all stakeholders involved in this expansive endeavour,” TK said.

The fibertime team has embraced the challenges and triumphed over them, as evidenced by their successful execution of the Kayamandi fiber Project. They have also attracted crucial investments that have enabled them to connect the entire Kayamandi area, including the informal settlement, thus fulfilling their commitment to providing connectivity to all. The investments have also facilitated the expansion of their services into other areas. A key factor in their accomplishments has been their exceptional community engagement strategies and collaboration with local suppliers, fostering a strong sense of inclusivity and promoting the growth of the local economy. TK explained that in this financial year, they have a pipeline of about 50 000 homes in the townships that they need to build.

The business is deeply committed to community development, and its dedication is evident in its achievements. From their initial pilot, they have already empowered and supported the emergence of a female-owned home router installer, exemplifying their commitment to gender inclusivity and empowering underrepresented individuals.

Furthermore, the team actively addresses community issues related to home access arrangement, pole permission, excavation, and plating. Importantly, these activities are undertaken within the community itself, ensuring that the local residents are not just beneficiaries but also active participants and stakeholders in the business. By keeping these operations within the community, fibertime fosters a sense of ownership and shared prosperity among the residents.

Looking into the future, TK said that they plan to connect every home in Kayamandi as part of their phase 2; this delivers on their promise. However, their bigger vision is to partner with their larger team and expand their services into new locations.

“We intend on bringing fibertime to more townships around South Africa,” concluded TK.