Econet Bemoans 52% Smartphone Penetration Rate

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By Alois Vinga

LISTED telecommunications giant, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe (EWZ) has bemoaned the country’s poor smartphone penetration rate currently at 52% saying the figure is far behind many African countries.

The company further urged policymakers to reconsider lowering the duty on smartphones to boost imports.

Presenting the group’s financial report recently, EWZ chairman James Myers said both the quality and quantity of smartphones being imported to Zimbabwe is lagging and is behind the figures reached by other continental players.

“Smartphone penetration is at low 52%, compared to about 90% for South Africa, and remains a limitation for the adoption of digital services. Kenya’s penetration rate of mobile internet users is at about 80%,” he said.

The group’s chairperson said as a result Zimbabwe’s internet penetration rate remains low as approximately 22% of the devices on our network trying to access data services are “feature” phones with low data handling capacity.

“We are working closely with the government to review the duty regime for mobile devices to enhance the rapid adoption of digital services across the economy,” said Myers.

The latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe report for the second quarter of 2020 also observes that active internet and data subscriptions declined by 2.4% to reach 56.7% from 59.1% recorded in the previous quarter.

EWZ said the increasing digitalisation of the economy necessitates an increase in 4G/LTE infrastructure, increased access to data services is necessary to support, among other critical imperatives, online education, health, and business digitalisation initiatives.

The firm reported that to date there is a 3G population coverage of about 70% for data services across the country, and, inclusive of 4G coverage, there is 90% of the population covered by data-capable base stations.

“Efforts to increase 4G technology have been hampered, in the last financial year, by the lack of foreign currency to increase our capacity and coverage to desired levels. However, we remain committed to providing telecommunications to all the people of Zimbabwe, which is the premise the business was founded upon, over 20 years ago,” Myers added.