Elon Musk urged to launch Ukraine-like internet link for Eritrea

Thursday March 10 2022
Elon Musk

Elon Musk speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility. He launched a satellite internet service via Starlink for Ukraine to keep Kyiv connected to the internet following a blackout caused by Russian invasion. PHOTO | AFP


Eritreans residing in different parts of the world are pleading with South Africa-born US billionaire Elon Musk to provide their small Red Sea nation with internet access to end a longstanding blackout.

The calls come a few days after Mr Musk, the founder of SpaceX, launched a satellite internet service via Starlink for Ukraine to keep Kyiv connected to the internet, which was disrupted after Russia invaded the eastern European country.

Despite the Russia-caused internet outrage, Ukrainians have reportedly been able to use Starlink to stay connected.

In Eritrea, barely one percent of the population has internet access.

Using the campaign hashtag #Starlink4Eritrea, pro-Eritrea Twitter users, mainly in the diaspora, are calling on the billionaire to help their country with internet access similar to what he deployed for war-ravaged Ukraine.

Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, has one of the lowest internet access rates in Africa. 


A report by the International Telecommunication Union shows that only one percent of the country's estimated population of 3.6 million have access to the internet.

The State-owned Eritel is the country’s sole internet provider.

Since there is no mobile internet in Eritrea, its people only use Wi-Fi, one of the slowest globally.

Citizens use bypass online software to help them access social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Eritrea has been a one-party state since it proclaimed independence on April 27, 1993. The reclusive nation has never held a presidential election. 

Led by President Isaias Afwerki, the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), previously known as the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, is the sole political party and has controlled the country for over three decades.

Ruling out general elections, President Afeworki is one of the longest-serving leaders in Africa.

Last week, Eritrea was one of only five countries in the world that refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the UN General Assembly.

Starlink, which operates via a satellite fleet in low Earth orbit, is the only internet service still functioning in some parts of Ukraine. 

The internet technology has reportedly helped the Ukrainian government to stay online after Mr Musk’s SpaceX company sent user terminals at the request of the deputy prime minister recently.

Starlink allows people to access the internet without a fibre network.

Starlink must be connected to a site on Earth to provide the service.

The site serving Ukraine is located in neighbouring Poland, where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled to escape the war.