The switch over to the multiple currency regime in Zimbabwe injected a healthy dosage of capital into the Information and Communication technology sector (ICT), courtesy of the access to hard currency. As the fastest growing sector in Africa, ICT’s have a pivotal role to play in the continued development and education of the continent. Representing 40% of the GDP, ICT is growing into a key economic pillar and major contributor in developing Zimbabwe into a modern, knowledge based economy.
The government and the private sector have poured USD 6.3 million into the development of an undersea fibre optic backbone infrastructure, thereby improving the mobile footprint in the country with penetration rates of around 80% in 2012. The price of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards which forced subscribers to dig deep into their pockets during the lost decade in which they cost up to $100 on the parallel market, were initially cut to $20 before going down to an all-time low of $1.
We can serve as a gateway of and into the continent. ICT is a great economic mover. ICT abbreviates time, distance, effort, and cost.
The Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa, Zimbabwe’s youngest and certainly one of the most dynamic government officials, has big plans for Zimbabwe. He launched a four-year strategic plan, which will transform the country into a digitalized society by 2015.
To date, the country has three mobile phone operators —NetOne and Telecel, and the regional Giant, Econet. Ranked by Forbes as one of the most innovative companies in Africa in 2012, Econet dominates the mobile sector and represents a success story for Zimbabwe. In the last three years, it has seen the number of subscribers grow from 1.2 million to over 7 million.
Founded in 1998 by highly respected businessman Strive Masiyawa, Econet has operations in Botswana, Lesotho, Burundi and Rwanda. Econet has invested over 1 billion USD in Zimabwe alone and plans to build Africa’s largest Solar power company to lead the way to solar energy. Econet’s is quickly becoming a regional power house and setting the pace for ICT in Zimbabwe and the region.