The recent report from Zimbabwe’s Auditor General on the viability of Powertel, a state-owned Internet Access Provider and subsidiary of national power company, ZESA Holdings started a string of comments about the poor performance from Powertel and other parastatals in general.
Powertel, on the other hand, is refuting this insolvency tag. In a press release, Powertel is highlighting its significant growth over a period of more than 15 years, with reference to investments in telecoms infrastructure (its fibre investment comes in here), voice services, internet and more importantly, prepaid electricity aggregation through the brand Powerplus.
While no figures have been thrown in to highlight the “profitability” or revenue potential of its services like retail internet and infrastructure deployment, the prepaid electricity aggregation looks like the shining star for Powertel.
According to Powertel, over 73% of the current electricity revenues are being covered through e-vending. Thanks to a variety of channels that include POS terminals, mobile phones and ATM platforms, electricity distribution throughout Zimbabwe has been made a lot easier.
Powertel makes 1% of each of these transactions, which seems like a decent figure, considering the huge amount of traffic that is being generated from prepaid electricity and it’s a strong depiction of cash flow. That, plus the fact that Powertel is the only aggregator being used by ZESA, is a huge advantage in a business environment that is struggling in terms of liquidity.
There’s no doubt, prepaid electricity is giving Powertel a cushion against a lot of turbulence that is being experienced in local telecoms and broadband. Which begs the question, why hasn’t the service been opened up to EcoCash and Telecash? If mobile money is a very visible contributor to that 73%, why not expand this to the two largest mobile money services in the country?