Voice of Consumers Zimbabwe (VOCZ), a consumer rights pressure group has criticised telco operators and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) for raising tariffs on voice, SMS and mobile data services in the country. The group maintained that the majority of mobile subscribers in Zimbabwe will be unable to afford the high tariffs.
“In May this year, Zimbabwe was rated the first African country with the most expensive data by Further Africa. It’s such a shame and we urge the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe to fulfil its obligations and stand for consumers,” said Panashe Makufa, VOCZ President.
POTRAZ had recently given mobile network operators (MNOs) the go-ahead to hike data, SMS and voice tariffs by almost 200%. The telco regulatory body explained that the price hike was necessary for telcos due to increased operating costs and the local currency’s unfavourable foreign exchange rate.
Zimbabwe has the most expensive mobile data tariff in Africa
A report by Cable shows that the average price of 1gb monthly data in Zimbabwe is about US$20, the highest of any country in Africa. This is higher than $12.78 in Equatorial Guinea, $3.33 in Mozambique, $1.39 in Nigeria and $0.94 in Ghana.
Although Zimbabwe telcos, Econet Wireless and NetOne do not offer outright 1gb monthly data plans to their subscribers in the country, the cumulative rates are still very expensive.
Econet, for instance, offers 1gb data for just 2 hours at $0.79 while NetOne also offers the same data plan at the same price. $0.79 is equivalent to N305 in Nigerian Naira. MTN Nigeria gives the same amount of 1gb data at a lesser price (N300) for 24 hours.
Many Zimbabweans Cannot Afford Internet Data Plans Due To The High Cost of Living
Zimbabwe, despite having a very weak currency, remains one of the countries in Africa with the highest cost of living. The cost of living in the country is estimated to be about US$1,105 per month, according to Expatistan.
1gb monthly data in Zimbabwe costs an average of $20, which represents a significant 18% of the cost of living.
In line with POTRAZ’s directive, Econet Wireless implemented a 60 % tariff increase in its subscription plans and NetOne proceeded to hike prices by almost 200%. This has made it more difficult for the average person in Zimbabwe to purchase an internet data plan.
Coupled with the high cost of living is the low minimum wage of US$62.50 for private sector workers. The minimum wage in itself appears to be fair enough, but for subscribers to buy a 1gb monthly data plan, they have to spend a whopping 32% of their minimum wage.
Econet Wireless and NetOne May Lose Subscribers
Owing to the hike in data, voice call and SMS prices by Econet and NetOne, many internet subscribers may consider opting out of the networks.
Owners of EcoCash, Econet Group currently has almost 9 million subscribers, representing an impressive 60% of Zimbabwe’s population. Close to 3 million people (20%) in the country a subscribed to NetOne and Telecel each.
In the event that these telcos do not rescind their decision to hike prices in mobile services or POTRAZ does not soften its stance, MNOs may have to brace up for the loss of subscribers who cannot afford their increased tariff plans.
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