Min of ICT says Starlink still has not applied for licence in Zim, what could be the hold up?

Leonard Sengere Avatar

Here is the latest in the Starlink saga. The Minister of ICT, Mavetera, gave a statement on where we are with the satellite internet service provider. Spoiler: she repeated herself, we are where we were a few months ago.

Apparently Starlink is yet to submit an application but they have indicated to the Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) that they are interested in coming to Zimbabwe.

The Minister talked about more than just Starlink. So, here is a transcription of part of her statement:

On the issue of Starlink, Zimbabwe is open for business and one thing we need to understand and appreciate is we have got an engagement agenda that we have as a country.

And we have been very clear to say that we are very much willing to also adopt any new ways that will make sure that we enhance our digital footprint in this country.

And you’ll realise that the issue of connectivity is something that we are very much serious with as a ministry. And what are we then doing – satellite technologies, these are low orbit technologies that we also need to also adopt as a country.

I believe that we can appreciate that Africom is one which is already having that. And I think we have already started releasing satellite technologies. So, Starlink is just one.

But Starlink, the position on Starlink is that they communicated to Potraz that they are willing to want to engage the Zimbabwe government. But until today they have not even paid for their application fees.

And it is Potraz, their structure is that …., any company that is going to also trade or to also be having a telecoms licence, they also need to also make sure that they pay a certain figure that is there.

So, because of that Starlink has not been able to do that. They have said they want to but they have not been able to come back to Potraz. This is the latest that I have on Potraz.

But of course, we are also working flat out also to make sure we have got reliable connectivity and also affordable data also coming through to all the citizens of Zimbabwe.

We have got a social contract with the people of Zimbabwe and indeed it is quite important to make sure that we provide reliable services and also we also provide connectivity at it’s best and I believe that is what we are working towards.

So, yeah, the ball seems to be in Elon Musk’s court. The government of Zimbabwe says come on through but apparently, Starlink is yet to make an application. Maybe Potraz should check their Spam folder, the email could be there. Talk is cheap Elon, you said you want to come to Zimbabwe, now back it up with an application.

Why the hold up?

Okay, what could be the hold up? We touched on this before. It could be the currency issue in the country giving Starlink pause. The thing is, they would have to accept ZW$, probably.


This little pseudo-currency of ours is not traded on international markets and so Starlink would have to queue up with Econet, Liquid, Dandemutande and all other ICT players at the RBZ’s auction, begging vaMangudya for some sweet USD action.

Licence fees

Could it be that Starlink cannot afford to pay the application and/or initial licence fee? That’s jokes. I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that Starlink would be applying for the ISP (National) licence.

To get that licence, the application fee is US$50 whilst the licence fee is US$50,000 for a 20-year tenure. Elon Musk/Starlink would not even notice if their bank account dwindled by $50,050.

However, if Starlink is considered a Fixed Telecom Network then the application fee would be $800 and the licence fee $100 million. That’s a sum that even Musk would baulk at. So, it could be this fee that’s to blame.

For context, the mobile network operator licence is $137 million.

Remember there is an annual USF + licence fee of 3.5% of gross turnover plus VAT. This is a significant payment.


I know, Zimbabwe is not under sanctions, only certain Zanu individuals are. However, as many entrepreneurs have confessed, this situation has made many American companies hesitant to do business in Zimbabwe or with Zimbabwean businesses.

Could it be that after some due diligence, Starlink decided that they could not take on the risk of falling afoul of the US government by working with the Zimbabwe government. As many American companies before have concluded.


The Minister said we are looking at Starlink as just one option, and that’s good to hear. We should not be looking at Starlink as the messiah, we need competition for Starlink.

However, I disagree that we can compare what Starlink has with what Africom offers. Yes, Africom has a VSAT Teleport Hub but that’s not even comparable to Starlink’s network of low-earth orbit satellites.

Starlink alternatives, which are far behind at this point by the way, include OneWeb, Kuiper, Telesat Lightspeed, China’s GuoWang and a few others. Africom is not offering what these guys are offering. Not in performance and certainly not in price.

Anyway, as you were.

Also read:

The negatives of Starlink coming to Zimbabwe and why we shouldn’t worry about them

There is a budding black market for Starlink kits in Zimbabwe

Starlink working on getting smartphones to directly connect to its satellites

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  1. Tonderai

    Please check again with POTRAZ because the remarks by Dr Machengete at a recent conference imply that an application is currently being considered… Unless I misunderstood.

    1. Anon

      True. Application is being considered and if payment is made by Starlink I believe the licence will be granted but for some reason Starlink is stalling. Maybe the same reason why Aliko Dangote wanted to set up a cement factory here a few years ago but never did and now we are speaking of cement shortages. This is Zimbabwe!!!

  2. C’mon Mars Bro

    🙏🏾God, please tell me this is a semantics game and that they mean SpaceX (the company) applied for Starlink (the service)! Or is license fee being used as a euphemism for ‘Appreciation Fee’🤔 On Africom, Starlink must have scared them into lobbying mode if the Minister dropping their name like that in the same breath as Starlink. Guys, boots were quaking in this rotten industry! Elon, you are our last hope!!!

  3. D.K.

    Some investors are chased after and begged to apply to operate locally. This one looks like a hot potato that will burn whoever touches it. The owner is also the owner of one of the most extensive communication platforms, and anything untoward with the application can spread all over with a single message on X.
    Is the Africom the ICT minister the American Africom or our one which, together with the new TV station NRTV (nkululeko rusununguko TV) are both entities said to belong to our national army? I think the minister should not have put Africom in the league of Starling but with Powertel and TelOne.
    I think Starlink just paid a courtesy call to announce its existence and being accessible to all corners of the country, and left the ball in the court of our decision makers.
    Besides the airspace to do with aircraft, how much higher can we control and have whoever is there to register? Did any of the satellites in the geo stationery orbit apply locally to operate locally? Did the satellites for GPS apply to operate locally? Did all those with the GD6s and other expensive cars apply to use the maps? Even the ex Jap cars have GPS, and the owners would not even think of applying, considering the zbc license predicament.
    Trying to get this operator to licence locally and pay fees or taxes will be like trying to get the sun to be licenced for shining locally.
    Do the legislators know that there is a relationship between GDP and internet penetration? Do they know that the internet is not only ror WhatsApp, Facebook and Tik Tok?

    1. Anonymous

      Fighting over territory in near space is beyond our pay grade😅

  4. Waiting

    Come on Mr Elon Musk… we are waiting for you to pay the millions so we can get the $53 Internet access. Thank you.

    1. C’mon Mars Bro

      StarLink recently broke even so maybe throwing money at a small market like ours isn’t looking too good on paper for now but haaaa, I still want it😂 If y’all have the means and have been holding out on border jumping, now might be the time to join StarLink tourism and hit up Moza! Someone is playing games with our feelings so might as well go grey market until things are official!

  5. Baby

    I was kinda surprised that this week will go by without any mention of Starlink😂

    1. Behold

      Love it or hate it, this thing has real impact on a technological, social, political and even tactical level. It’s more newsworthy that 80% of what certain outlets put out.

  6. GG

    Starlink forgot to grease someone’s hand.Thats how it’s done in Africa.

  7. *-*

    I don’t think Starlink gives a flying flip about Zimbabwe.We already don’t have a lot of services such as ChatGPT here so wishing for Starlink is probably just a waste of time….And the issue of ChatGPT not working here is more of a political one seeing that Open.AI belongs to Elon Musk I don’t see how he might care about this country.Its supposed to be us begging Starlink for their service in all honesty.

    1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      You can now use ChatGPT in Zimbabwe, though the political scene hasn’t changed! Majaira kunyora narrative dzisina proof.

      1. *-*

        Of-course we are using ChatGPT but through third party apps. If you want to develop your own ChatGPT app whilst here in Zimbabwe you have to do some creative thinking inorder to get that API. You can use Starlink here in Zimbabwe but you would have to buy it in another country and subscribe from that country.

        1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

          You can use ChatGPT directly, without a VPN. There’s nothing to argue about.

  8. Petra Visser

    Hope they register, but it seems to get a licence with POTRAZ is seriously costly

  9. Core95

    “Zimbabwe is not on sanctions” . I know some people who will defend the opposite with their life.

  10. Flysiddthesoulutionexe

    😂🤣😂As we were papi pacho

  11. Studio 263

    Is this Minister Mavetere’s actual words? If so then pakaipa zve, the article has too many ana “also”. Some sentences have as much as 3 ana also lol