Buying a phone or most electrical gadgets in Zimbabwe has been a nightmare for citizens because of duties.
The excessive customs duties on these devices have made it a struggle for Zimbos to buy smartphones and Econet recently claimed that there is a 52% smartphone penetration rate in their latest annual results. This they noted as being lower than South Africa which has a smartphone penetration rate of about 90%.
Econet also noted that they are lobbying government to reduce the duty regime for mobile devices to try and get these devices in as many hands as possible;
We are working closely with the Government to review the duty regime for mobile devices to enhance the rapid adoption of digital services across the economy.
According to the latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (“POTRAZ”) report, for the second quarter of 2020, “…active internet and data subscriptions declined by 2.4% to reach 56.7% from 59.1% recorded in the previous quarter.” According to the GSMA, “Governments and policymakers should implement policies to enhance access to connectivity and drive investment in more resilient digital infrastructure for the future. This is crucial to reactivating the region’s economy…”.
We are optimistic that the Government, which also acknowledges the benefits of a digitised economy, will ensure that Zimbabweans are not left behind.Econet financial results for the year ending February 2020
As a tech enthusiast who generally likes gadgets particularly smartphones that would definitely be a move in the right direction if the government decided to lower the burden of bringing mobile devices into the country for sale.
Considering that duties for mobile phones are nearly 50% (45%) retailers end up selling the devices at nearly double the price it cost them to get the phones in the shop. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if Zimbabweans could afford to buy the phones at those prices but unfortunately the citizens can’t afford.
The 52% smartphone penetration rate is also a cloudy number because whilst we don’t know the exact figure – there are many Zimbos who have more than one smartphone meaning the true smartphone penetration is lower than what’s quoted by Econet.
Hopefully, Econet’s lobbying will make a difference as that could have a huge impact on so many local industries including e-Learning, application development and even media consumption.