There’s a lot that needs to be done to improve the operating conditions in the Zimbabwean telecoms industry, but progress is being made and everyone is on the same page.
This was the general sentiment from the closed-door breakfast meeting held this morning by the Ministry of ICT and POTRAZ. According to the Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, the various telecoms operators, including Econet Wireless, now have an understanding of what the government is trying to achieve through infrastructure sharing and they appreciate how this is something that they need in an ever-changing telecoms environment.
The Minister also highlighted some of the concerns that the operators raised in the meeting such as revenues that have been affected by the proliferation of OTT services like WhatsApp and Facebook that are affecting traditional revenue streams like voice communication.
According to the Minister, the telecoms operators feel that these services are deriving benefit from infrastructure investments that the operators have made, while avoiding any obligations to the government as they do not pay taxes or meet responsibilities that the regulator outlines.
The operators also raised concerns about taxes and licence requirements as well as regulations on tariff adjustment. As a response to the tax issue, which has been cited by operators like Econet as one of the contributors to depressed revenues, the Minister stated that tax issues are determined by the Ministry of Finance.
However, the operators have been advised to come up with a common position and request for any crippling taxes to be waivered, on condition that the operators can prove that the taxes are affecting viability and the sector’s ability to remit more taxes.
The various operators have also been advised by the Ministry to have common grouping that communicates their concerns to the regulator and the government.
The meeting appears to have been successful from a dialogue perspective, with some of the operators calling it largely progressive. The true test will, however, lie in the efforts that are put into creating and implementing solutions.