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Zimbabwe's internet costs hit an all-time high

Last year, the landlocked country's telecommunications industry regulator, POTRAZ, approved three tariff price hikes for telcos

Zimbabwe's internet costs hit an all-time high
Photo by Sten Ritterfeld / Unsplash

Internet subscription prices in Zimbabwe are going through the roof in the aftermath of service charge revisions by telecom operators, adding to the economic hardship faced by millions of people and thousands of businesses.

In 2023, the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), the Southern African country's telecoms watchdog, green-lit tariff hikes thrice. The latest adjustments date back to February, April, and October. 

The first iteration saw tariffs jump by 50%, while the most recent, enacted in October 2023, allowed telcos to hike their prices by as much as 100%. POTRAZ authorized these changes as part of its efforts to curb negative local market impact on telcos. 

Zimbabwe's leading mobile carrier, Econet Wireless, increased its internet prices by 100% in October 2023, now selling 1 GB of data at an average of $3.54. State-owned rival Net One, on its part, hiked by 50% twice last year. 

Other payers in the space have followed suit. This January, TelOne and Telecel announced new prices, however slight compared to their counterparts. 

Since 2019, POTRAZ has approved tariff increments several times, and more recently pitched the government to counterattack hyperinflation by pricing them in both Zimbabwean and US dollars. 

Annual consumer inflation in the landlocked market reached a 4-month peak of 21.6% in November 2023, increasing from the 17.8% record in the previous month. At the end of 2022, Zimbabwe had the world's highest inflation rate, at 193.4% change compared to 2021.

Already, Zimbabwe has one of the highest data prices ever. Per a 2023 Cable.co.uk report, the country has the most expensive internet in Africa and the world at large, with $43.75 per gigabyte. Now, it has been exacerbated. 

This is quite concerning for a place where the national minimum wage is $150. What's more, figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) say 61% of the country's employed populace earn less than $12.66 monthly. 

This has led to the emergence of DataMustFallZW, a campaign on social media. Speer-headed by MISA Zimbabwe, a digital rights and media advocacy group, the movement seeks affordable data prices for every Zimbabwean.

With an internet penetration rate of 61.3%, which is lower than the regional average of 70%, the surge in price further burdens and excludes users who depend on the internet to access basic services, study, and make a living. 

Nonetheless, Zimbabwe is no stranger to hikes, whether internet, electricity, or petrol, as they have been commonplace since the era of Robert Mugabe. 

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