The 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.
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?