So, just how many Zimbabweans have mobile phones?

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Zimbabwe Mobile PenetrationThe latest mobile subscriber stats from POTRAZ show that Zimbabwe now has a mobile penetration of about 64%. Really impressive if you consider that in 2009, the mobile penetration was just 24%.

But every time that mobile penetration percentage is mentioned, there’s almost always need to clarify that the percentage may actually be misleading. Mobile penetration is calculated as a percentage of the total population of the country (12.5 million currently) the penetration is often incorrectly associated with actual individuals with mobile phones. Indeed misleading.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have conversation with the Zim ICT ministry permanent secretary Samuel Kundishora. During our conversation, which was centered on mobile telephony uptake he expressed that he was worried Zimbabwe doesn’t have the data it needs on the subject.  “We don’t have reliable stats of our mobile usage locally”, he said, “these stats are extremely important for the development of our ICTs development and all sectors that use these ICTs; policy makers, entrepreneurs, marketers. They all need this data.”

And he asked: “how many sim cards do you have?”

I have 4. 2 Econet lines and 2 Telecel.

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My main line is an Econet one. I use the other Econet line for internet browsing so it stays in the modem. Less hassle that way. The one Telecel line is good for more affordable mobile broadband, calling Telecel numbers and making international calls. I got the second Telecel line recently when I opened a CABS Textacash mobile money account.

Extreme case maybe. But I know a lot of people that have 2 lines. Some, 3.

Sometime ago, I spoke to G-Tide Zimbabwe founder and CEO, Chamunorwa Shumba. G-Tide Zimbabwe sells low cost Asian mobile phones, most of them dual sim and the brand has been quite popular locally, especially with low income bracket buyers. G-Tide has been trying to break into the smartphone market locally with low cost Android devices. The problem, he said, was that the smartphones they were getting initially were single sim. He told us they had to convince their manufacturers in China to make dual sim Android phones. “We’re known for dual sim” he explained “we can’t suddenly start single sim now!”

If the most popular low cost device in the country “can’t stop” dual sim, makes you wonder if that may mean just about everyone has at least 2 sim cards. It does suggests that the actual percentage of people that have mobile phones, out of Zimbabwe’s total population, is lower than 64%. Maybe around 40%? Maybe even lower? In the 30s?

Econet has long been accepted as the network with the most network coverage. Wouldn’t it make sense even if they were not your primary network to just have an Econet line as backup? Would it therefore be correct to assume that subscribers that don’t primarily use an Econet line, do have an Econet line as backup?

We would love to know your opinion on this? How many sim cards do you have? Why?

image 2 source: g_tide_motaheda

17 Comments

  1. KuraiMGT says:

    I have one line but I am in Botswana. Kikikikik. The reason is to make sure I am connected as soon as I cross the border without breaking a bank through roaming

  2. Esther says:

    I have 2 lines, econet line being the main and telecel for enjoying the bonuses they offer and low international rates

  3. Graduate Zimunya says:

    I have 4. My first line was a Netone line when lines where rare to get. It acts as my business line as it has been on my business cards for long. The second is my Econet line which is my social line. The other econet line is my internet line and the last one is my Telecel line for the cheap and promotions

  4. Interesting observation. So what the point of registering
    sim cards if = Potraz does not have the right stats?

    1. Farayi Nyamadzawo says:

      You are correct Potraz should be able to provide stats without duplicates. Meaning regardless of how many sms cards you have, you will be counted as one

  5. Vusa Dube says:

    Does G-Tide indicate how many mobile phones they sell per month or annually?

  6. Anonymous says:

    ‘…associated with actual individuals with mobile phones’ then we are looking in the wrong place, I think a census would be required for that 🙂 BUT if you are looking for: 
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone_penetration_rate (..
    he number of active mobile PHONE NUMBERS  ) then the portraz figure is a good estimate, because even if 1person has 10 lines, then the 10 lines count.

    1. Anonymous says:

      So, in my opinion, if there are 10people, and 1person has 10 lines, while the other 9 dont have any lines, then, the penetration rate is 100%.

      1. KuraiMGT says:

        I think it is a sticky one, there is no easy way of getting around it. If one person has five lines that he uses, it should count beacuse they are all active lines. But for penetration stats, thats a bit misleading because the main purpose of penetration stats if to identify persons with access to fones, not necesarily, the number of active lines. but hey, all stats have their caveats. lol

  7. Farayi Nyamadzawo says:

    “Mobile phone penetration rate is a term generally used to describe the number of active mobile phone numbers (usually as a percentage) within a specific population”
    Interesting.. I was always under the assumption that it was about per person.. I feel this definition is misleading and does not apply for developing countries like Zimbabwe

    1. Anonymous says:

      even in developed countries, individuals use more than a single sim card: one has a phone, ipad, 3g modem, laptop, electric gate (+ many other modern appliances that use sim cards). In addition to traffic lights (
      http://www.property24.com/articles/sim-cards-stolen-from-400-robots/12932 )

  8. techguru says:

    How about the smartphone penetration rates ? Is BBM now available in Zim ?

  9. Pastor Farie says:

    I have 4 (one econet main number, one Netone from my rural chief, one telecel the reason is there and MTN)

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