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Zimbabwe: slow progress on merger of state-backed ISPs, regulators

By , Zimbabwe correspondent
Zimbabwe , 20 Jul 2020

Zimbabwe state-backed ISPs Powertel, Africom and ZARNet are set to be merged into a single entity.

This is according to the country’s Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube, who provided an update on the process during his mid-budget review statement last week.

Powertel and Africom are both internet access providers, while ZARnet was formed by the Information Ministry to provide ICT to government schools and tertiary institutions. It currently holds a 60% equity stake in Telecel Zimbabwe Ltd on behalf of government.

According to a sector report released by industry regulator the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), Africom and Powertel combine for 4.3% of active fibre subscriptions and 9.5% of IAP revenues in Q1 of 2020, which amounts to ZW$7.175-million.

Industry analysts believe the move is evidence of the privatisation of non-performing SEOs, as the government begins to bundle up these loss-making entities. However progress has been slow.

Minister Ncube noted: “Merging of Powertel, Zarnet and Africom into a single entity has been painstakingly slow.”

Local ICT expert Tvesetana Dhliwayo said, “The move may affect Powertel which had better revenue collections, as it joins ZARnet , an ISP which probably has the least clientele in Zimbabwe and Africom, a pioneers of CMDA technology which is slowly (becoming) defunct.”

Africom had managed to maintain its traditional clients on its local fibre network for small-to-medium offices.

Potraz, Baz merger

Meanwhile the proposed merger of Potraz and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) is being delayed.

The 2020 mid-term budget review stated: “The merger between Baz and Potraz had not materialised due to diverging views of the respective Ministries in as far as the merger is concerned. Hence there is no progress with regards to the merger of the two regulators.”

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