HARD DECISIONS

Inflation & Currency Crisis Push Zimbabwe To Hike Mobile Network Tariff

By  |  February 20, 2023

The Zimbabwe Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ), has permitted mobile networks operating in the Southern African country to hike their tariffs by as much as 50 percent from April 2023. 

In an explanation for the rather sudden price change, the telecommunications watchdog pointed to the reality that carriers in the market have been hemorrhaging operation losses despite carrying out their mobile money transactions in American dollars. 

For the longest possible time, Zimbabwe has been struggling to balance the value of its local currency. Since 2009, the Zimbabwe dollar has been collapsing due to skyrocketing inflation, forcing the reliance on the greenback for daily transactions. But the American currency has been in short supply. 

Meanwhile, the service operators have been decrying the power shortage issues that have consistently blacked out their networks across the country. In November and December last year, Zimbabwe experienced power cuts 20 hours long, bringing the nation’s energy crisis to a crescendo. 

As a result of the persistent load shedding, base stations have been frequently going offline, causing poor network quality at a time when more of the Zimbabwean population has moved online for work and educational purposes. 

“These base stations mostly rely on electric power rather than generators, and if we have load-shedding which runs for more than 18 or 24 hours, it becomes very difficult to provide quality services,” the regulator explained at the time. 

This month, subscribers took to social media, especially Twitter, to call out Strive Masiwaya’s Econet on its poor data services countrywide. Before this, the operators carried out an upwards review of prices of its promotional data and SMS bundles, citing a bump in operational costs. The price for voice bundles, however, remained unchanged. 

Gift Machengete, the director general of POTRAZ, said regulatory intervention into tariff hikes is an effort to sidestep a situation where telcos would charge simply as they wish. 

Liquid Intelligent Technologies, a subsidiary of Cassava Technologies—a pan-African technology group with operations in more than 20 countries—announced it would be increasing its prices by 50 percent, shortly after POTRAZ’s announcement. The operator also said it would adjust by a further 50 percent come April. 

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