Dartcom Group launched Gbitel, a level 1 B-BBEE marketplace platform in 2018 to facilitate participation of SMMEs in fibre rollout, especially in underserved areas and drive utilisation of locally manufactured products. 

According to Statistics South Africa, the country recorded an unemployment rate of 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021.  This was the highest rate since the statistics agency started its quarterly labour force survey back in 2008, with the unemployment rate growing steadily over the last few years. 

Working with various fibre network operators (FNOs), including Vumatel, it brings much-needed fibre connectivity to bridge the digital divide, whilst affording local SMMEs opportunities to work through the platform and get the benefits of training and working capital funding. 

Until recently, fibre rollout within South African townships was limited.  However, with the launch of ‘reach products’ by Vumatel and other players, Gbitel has managed to pilot, refine and industrialise fibre rollout in underserved areas. Gbitel continues to engage with its partners globally, especially in South America, to refine its network rollout strategy to make it viable to invest in underserved areas. 

To date, Gbitel has unlocked approximately 90 000 homes in underserved areas and facilitated investments in excess of R150 million into the areas to realise the potential of e-learning and development of new SMMEs.

“Our extensive experience in telecommunications infrastructure products and services, allows Gbitel, through partners, not only to build reliable and affordable internet infrastructure in our chosen communities but also to impart invaluable skills to local communities to help them develop as installers themselves.  The journey from bricks to clicks starts with spades and splicers,” says Dartcom CEO Brett Nash.

In each area that is being rolled out for fibre, Gbitel hires and trains installers from the local communities to build according to required specification of the FNOs. This can only be done through commitment for incubation, skills development and working capital assistance. The marketplace is based on the premise that the sustainability of the same installers will be created through diversification into other infrastructure opportunities such as energy, water and home installations.

“Our shareholders focused on setting up a marketplace to collaborate with the industry in an effort to upskill local communities, create jobs and hopefully with time, unlock economic growth in our chosen areas,” says Pam Marrie, Dartcom’s Head of Corporate Social Investment.

“Investing in fibre infrastructure in underserved areas is essential to bridge the digital divide and incorporate as many South Africans as possible into the digital economy. Having the added benefit of skills transfer and job creation in each area only extends the value of projects like these,” says Dietlof Mare, CEO of Vumatel.

Gbitel is a wholly owned Dartcom company and forms part of the organisation’s end-to-end marketplace for the provision of digital infrastructure products and solutions.