ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni said the country’s mobile phone penetration rate will reach saturation point within months as competition in the telecommunications sector intensifies.
Report by Mernat Mafirakurewa
As of last month tele-density, a measure of the number of active mobile phone Subscriber Identity Module Cards and landlines as a percentage of the country’s total population stood at 89,8%.
Mboweni told a Press briefing last Thursday that Econet had pumped almost $700 million into the market in the last three years in developing the necessary infrastructure.
“We have put in infrastructure that anybody who wants to make a phone call should be able to make a phone call. That drive to provide telecommunications to the people of Zimbabwe, to a large extent has been met,” he said.
“If you look at statistics, we have over 90% in penetration rate. Of course, we are still behind our neighbours South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, but we believe that very shortly we should be able to cross the 100% penetration rate. We believe getting to 100% is a question of months not years.” Econet’s subscriber base advanced 24% year-on-year to seven million.
It said its traffic market share was 72% as of August 2012 with Telecel at 17% and NetOne at 11%.
Registered data subscribers rose to 2,54 million from 1,46 million last year. Following the formal adoption of multi-currencies in Zimbabwe in February 2009, the telecommunications sector had shown strong signs of resilience. Official figures show that in the 2011 national budget, the Information Communication Technology sector was allocated at least $25 million while in the 2012 budget the allocation increased to at least $40 million (about 11% of the budget).
Turning to EcoCash, the firm’s mobile phone money transfer platform, Mboweni said the strategic decision to buy into TN Bank was meant to drive the growth of one of its latest product offerings.
EcoCash is an innovative mobile payment solution that enables users to complete simple financial transactions including sending money, buying prepaid airtime, and sending money to any mobile number including on other networks.
Mboweni said that EcoCash subscribers had shot up 70% to 1,7 million in the last six months.
“We took a strategic position to invest into TN Bank. For us to drive the initiative without interfering you have to take a strategic position, a position where you influence decision making,” Mboweni said.
“This is basically what Econet has done by taking this significant stake. We are saying we are serious about EcoCash and we know that it has to sit with an entity that holds a banking licence. The EcoCash subscribers – 50% of those subscribers came through TN Bank and so it would not make sense for us to actually just have a let go attitude in terms of our position.”
Econet acquired 45% in TN Bank. He said the mobile telecommunications firm was moving to create strong partnerships with other banks.
“EcoCash is one of the most exciting products we have now. There is a lot of potential still to be unlocked,” Mboweni said.
“Since inception, over $300 million has passed through EcoCash and for me it excites as I believe it holds tremendous value. In fact, in any given month, we have seen this figure has risen to $70m passing through EcoCash.”