blog post from Paul Budde
July 18, 2013
Zimbabwe’s economy is recovering from a decade of recession under gross mismanagement by its political leaders. The country’s telecom industry has been booming since the government finally allowed foreign currencies as alternative legal tender, which had already been the unofficial fuel of the local economy for years. Mobile penetration has increased more than seven-fold within four years and broke the 100% penetration barrier in early 2013 on the back of 3G mobile broadband subscriptions.
Hundreds of millions of US dollars are being invested into the three mobile networks – Econet, NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe. The normalisation of Zimbabwe’s economy is reflected in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) forecast of continuous annual GDP growth at around 5%, following a spike to 10% in 2011.
NetOne’s parent, TelOne (formerly PTC) still holds a de-facto monopoly on fixed-line services in the country. The government is planning to privatise up to 60% of TelOne and NetOne, either through an IPO or a strategic partnership with a foreign investor. TelOne has been awarded the country’s fourth mobile licence but hasn’t launched a service yet.
Limitations of international bandwidth for the landlocked country have held back development of the internet and broadband sector, but this has changed since fibre optic links to several submarine cables have been established via neighbouring countries. Massive expansion of 3G mobile broadband services across the country has meant that more than half of the population now has access to the internet. The first commercial LTE services are expected later this year.
- Booming mobile and broadband market;
- New domestic and international fibre connections;
- Hundreds of millions of US dollars in network expansions;
- TelOne, NetOne privatisation planned;
- Second biggest mobile network up for sale;
- Fourth mobile licence in waiting.
Estimated market penetration rates in Zimbabwe’s telecoms sector – end-2013