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Consumer rights and Zimbabwe’s telecoms sector

A free market economy is a sound development catalyst as jobs, opportunities and wealth are created. Unfortunately; as has been the case with anything unbalanced, capitalism can be downright devastating if left to its own devices. One cannot help but to think of scandals like Enron, Worldcom, Renaissance Zimbabwe and numerous others. Insatiable greed is a reality. Conversely too much government control in any economy can result in stagnation due to a lack of incentive and purpose. A fine balance of the two is a trusted success formula.

Due to the critical role ICT is playing in the socio-economic advancement of developing countries, its stability is attracting greater focus. The more access a nation has to affordable and reliable telecommunications solutions, the higher its growth prospects become. Mobile phones alone have transformed nations like Kenya with Michael Joseph-CEO of Safaricom Kenya stating the following, “I think half the GDP growth in Kenya comes because of the mobile phone revolution, not because of anything else. It has provided these people means of communication”. Telecoms experts have now unanimously agreed that the second phase of growth lies in the development of broadband. On this note the International Telecom’s Union has published a press release stating that every 10% increase in broadband has contributed 2.5% to the booming Chinese economy. More information on this can be found in an article published by Biz Tech Africa.

When all is said and done, the ultimate question is whether Zimbabwe’s consumers are getting value for money or not? The economy has made very encouraging progress since dollarization however costs of living and doing business have continued to hover above the rest of Southern Africa. Are the operators entrusted with accelerating Zimbabwe’s entrance into the information age doing so? We have often been told that affordable and quality broadband is not as simplistic as attributing undersea cables to it. We’ve also been told that the government’s generous waiver of duties for ICT products, a move we expected to result in the most affordable prices in the region is also not that simplistic. We are really eager to find out what your comments on this are.

Elsewhere on the continent consumer activism in the ICT sector has resulted in a greater balance. On the 27th of May 2010 consumers in Ghana staged a demonstration in protest of shoddy services. According to Ghanaweb the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), together with other consumer right groups, called on all mobile phone users in the country to switch off their mobile phones from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. Cell C South Africa was banned from using the term 4GS in its marketing as this was found to be false. The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa ruled against the campaign, and the company’s CEO issued a public apology. Cell C apparently meant to say that 4GS stood for: 4 (for) Greater Services. Zimbabwe is in a similar position as some operators have begun referring to themselves as Africa’s telecoms leaders and others promoting themselves as 4G complaint yet selling 256Kbps and 1mbps packages.

A converged effort on the part of consumers and the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe is required to blow away the smoke screens of deception consumers have had to deal with. A balance must be struck in which all stakeholders of the ICT sector find common ground and transparently lay their facts out.

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6 thoughts on “Consumer rights and Zimbabwe’s telecoms sector

  1. I am a strong advocate of making Service providers pay for their sins of greed. There is no doubt that local operators are not doing “everything” they can. It’s up to us to squeeze that extra performance out of them. We MUST complain at every opportunity about as much as possible. Staying quite will give these guys the illusion that we are content or worse still harmless! 

    That said we must also be realistic and to a microscopic extent, symapthetic with these guys! Let us investigate the situation thoughtfully and direct our frustration at specif underperfomances that have no reason to exist. Recently customer care was an issue. We knew they were being stupid about it, we told them and they couldn’t substantively deny it. They were forced to change it. If tarrifs are next we must investigate the issue and present those facts before them. THEN COMPLAIN until kingdom come. Complaints must be factual and realistic for them to be effective! There is no harm in unrealstic complains though they keep these guys on their toes where should be! They must loose sleep and eat cardboard before we are done with them. I hope they realise that we will NEVER Approve!

    1. yeah thts true bro
      i thnk the biggest problem is econet
      they seem to controllin all telecomms in zim
      if we go to potraz ul realize 3 quarters of their board members are frm econet

  2. To show that the telecoms sector in Zimbabwe badly needs regulation; today in a local Bulawayo daily i saw an advert where Africom is saying if you buy their mobile modem you can get download speeds of up to 3.1 mbps. Now, really! I am a Africom subscriber in Byo and i can assure you that you will never get anything more than 1 mbps even if you wake up in the dead of night like a witch to download.

  3. “Zimbabwe is in a similar position as some operators have begun referring to themselves as Africa’s telecoms leaders and others promoting themselves as 4G complaint yet selling 256Kbps and 1mbps packages”

    to be fair, i dont think brodacom/spiritage have actually said that they have 4g services already running in the country.. from what i’ve seen.. they only seem to be doing market research about what people think a real 4g network should/shouldnt have. i stand to be corrected though…

    1. @kthaker:disqus  with reference to Brodacom’s ad campaign; l agree with you in principle, unfortunately the move totally deceives/misleads consumers. Their current ads have significantly visible (more than their actual website).This is too similar to the Cell C example.
       When l went to enquire (as a customer) they told me so (that its 4G). This is when l asked the guy to define 4G and he spoke about reliability and consistency. Try it.I believe we are in agreement that accountability is required in this fast moving and essential sector-for the benefit of consumers, shareholders/investors and the nation. 

      1.  brodacom is lyin to us
        thry went to the extent of disablin their page on facebook called true4g coz they culdnt answer my questions

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