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International Voice Traffic Declined In The Second Quarter; Were Investors Playing The Waiting Game?

Base stations in Zimbabwe

When the POTRAZ Sector Report for the first quarter came in, we saw an alarming trend; outgoing and incoming international voice traffic was on the ascendance both on mobile and fixed lines. What really got my attention was the fact that in both cases this was against the trend and at times the numbers were outright shocking. A perfect example is the 50.46% growth between outgoing calls in 2017 and the first quarter of 2018.

But at the time there was euphoria; we had just left the old dispensation and entered a new one and apparently, Zimbabwe was also open for business. Investors were engaging the country from all angles and vice-versa.

POTRAZ board also acknowledged the fact that the interested parties were trying to find where they fit in;

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We are beginning to see increased business activity as a result of the international community warming up to us due to the “Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra,”

The trends for the second quarter (April-June) show a slight decline in all these sectors;

Fixed Voice Traffic - International Outgoing

PeriodPercentage (+/-) shift from 4th quarter to 1st quarter
2015-16-6.4%
2016-17-38.1%
2017-18(1st quarter)+12.36%
1st quarter - 2nd quarter-13.1

Mobile Voice Traffic - International Outgoing

PeriodPercentage (+/-) shift from 4th quarter to 1st quarter
2015-16-13.8%
2016-17-0.3%
2017-18 (1st quarter)+6.27%
1st quarter- 2nd quarter-11.2%

Incoming calls also dropped by 6.1% (fixed lines) and 9.8% (mobile) respectively. Why was this case?

Stagnation…

In the second quarter, questions begun to fly around concerning the new dispensation. The reality was this wasn’t an elected government and effectively they had taken control through unlawful methods (albeit with the support of the Zimbabwean public). It became clear that other countries were still hesitant to engage with this country. A wait & see approach was taken, with everyone steadily waiting for elections to come and pass before committing to anything.

Easy way out

POTRAZ took the easy route out and blamed the decline on OTT (WhatsApp, FB, Twitter) services:

Both categories of international voice traffic declined; this is attributable to the growing use of Over-the-Top applications for making international calls.

The problem with this statement is that OTT services have existed for years and last quarter they were there but traffic increased. Therein lies the problem with statements from POTRAZ. When it’s convenient to attribute something to the government they do. When calls increased it was simply; WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS! Now that figures have declined they are attributed to OTT apps. POTRAZ took the easy route and didn’t want to really look at what’s happening. Instead, they gave the most convenient answer.

What will the third quarter look like?

Well, considering that two of the three months of the third quarter (July & August) were basically dedicated to elections (voting, counting of votes, and the concourt). I expect the decline to continue. The fourth quarter could be a truer reflection of what’s going on with less of the political noise that has affected the past two quarters. I’m not sure where the numbers will go but my boss firmly believes international traffic will be on the rise once again.


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One thought on “International Voice Traffic Declined In The Second Quarter; Were Investors Playing The Waiting Game?

  1. What proportion of international callers are these investors?? And these ‘investors’ don’t use OTTs like Skype?? The link you desperately want to create is very flawed. Calling patterns are cyclical and you can’t draw solid economic conclusions from a quarter on quarter comparison but rather an annual

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