Zimbabwe, 3rd most expensive place in the world to make a mobile call

Posted by Read 7 Comments

According to a report released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) last week, Zimbabwe has the most expensive mobile cellular tariffs in relative terms. Only Malawi and Niger have higher mobile tariffs. Mobile cellular tariffs are measured by the ITU in 165 economies and contribute as a sub-basket to the overall ICT Price Basket of an economy. The data used in the report was collected in 2010. You can download the report here.

Table: Mobile-cellular sub-basket, 2010 and 2008 (source: ITU report)

Zimbabwe’s mobile-cellular tariffs as a percentage of the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita are 68.3%. Niger’s is 73.4% and Malawi, the highest, is 91%.

The mobile cellular tariffs value is computed by adding the price of 30 outgoing calls (on-net, off-net and to a fixed line, and for peak, off peak and weekend periods) in predetermined ratios, to the price of 100 SMS messages and dividing the value by national average monthly GNI per capita.


Zimbabwe’s neighbours South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique have a mobile cellular sub-basket value of 4.8%, 2.5%, 4.8%, 20.8%, 46.2% respectively.

Economies with the lowest mobile tariffs as a percentage of the GNI per capita are Hong Kong (China), the UAE, Macao (China), Denmark and Liechtenstein. Hong Kong has a value of 0.1% while the rest have 0.2%.

The other sub-baskets contributing to the ICT Price Basket are the fixed telephone tariffs            and fixed broadband internet. Unfortunately, mobile broadband tariffs are currently don’t contribute to the ICT Price Basket value of an economy in the report.

Zimbabwe ranks the sixth most expensive country on fixed telephone tariffs and the third most expensive country on fixed broadband prices. Zimbabwe’s overall price basket value is 66.2 for the year 2010.

Across Zimbabwe’s three GSM operators on-net calls are charged at 23 US cents per minute and off-net calls at 25 US cents. An SMS message costs a subscriber 9 US cents. Zimbabwe’s GNI per capita value used in the report is USD 360.


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  1. anonymous says:

    After looking at the way they compute the Mobile Cellular sub-basket as a percentage , I see that the GNI plays a significant role in the overall result. In fact our operators could be charging the same or even lower tariffs per second than other operators in some countries but if those countries have a higher GNI their mobile cellular sub-basket as a percentage will be lower. Its unfortunate that  the mobile operators have no control over the GNI and they can not negotiate a discount on capital equipment based on th fact  that the GNI in their country is low.

  2. Murdoch says:

    Would be interesting to see what GNI figure the ITU used here, since there is no single, agreed figure on GNI and GDP even within our own govt, let alone externally. You will find, for example, that the IMF’s GDP figures differ from the World Bank’s, and the Zim government’s.

    1. KuraiMGT says:

      I was always amazed by this. The same problems applies to many countries in the region as well. The figures are notoriously different……..and the question is Why????

  3. Concerned Mwanawevhu says:

    I dont think that the assumption that zimbabwe is the 3rd most expensive place to make a phone call is accurate, since this conclusion is dependant on the sub basket being a product of the GNI. What it does reflect is that celular operators contribute a large part to the Gross national income, which must mean that cellular comunication is big business , or that the rest of our economy doesnt produce much and doesnt contribute as much to GNI. Zimbabwe’s economy is also largley informal so the GNI whicever they use doesnt actually reflect the true value of money that changes hands on a monthly basis.  

  4. Not Accurate says:

    u are being slightly sensational here; for instance telecel local texting is 4c (25texts/US$1) using megajuice and 9 c internationally, i have done UK and SA.

  5. Andre says:

    Agree with the above comments! Making a call in SA costs more than US$ 0.30. Granted GNI is much higher here but the equipment used accross the various countries is pretty standardised (i.e. costs are similar if not the same).

    As an aside, very interested to see how EcoCash takes off considering no one uses US cents. Keep me posted TechZim – you have a great site!!

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