We have seen what happens when there is a law that prohibits some product/behaviour that people really love and don’t believe is immoral. They will ignore the law and a black market will emerge to supply the banned thing.
History books tell us about Prohibition in the U.S. and how a black market for booze emerged with ruthless gangsters at its core. In our own lifetimes, we have seen the US dollar move to the streets when it was deemed illegal to deal in in Zimbabwe.
Starlink has not faced a ban, the Zimbabwean government has expressed a desire to regulate its licensing. This licensing process is taking too long for some individuals though, leading to the emergence of an unofficial market for Starlink kits.
You will recall that as early as April we reported that “Starlink is working in Zimbabwe for as low as US$53 per month…but there is a catch.” It does not matter that it hasn’t been licensed, if one is equipped with the kit it will work in the country.
All perfect conditions for a black market to spring up.
The Starlink kits
We scoured the internet for some of those people and found some interesting enterprising individuals. This being Zimbabwe, most of them have a presence on WhatsApp and Facebook primarily.
The cheapest seller we found is selling the Starlink kit for $700 and the most expensive is $2000. Most are in the $1400 range.
Do remember that the kit costs about $650 (inclusive of shipping and handling fees) in Mozambique. So, some of these sellers are charging way too much for the kits.
Remember, getting the kit is one thing. Paying your monthly subscription to get internet access is another. So, much like the SA DStv decoder sellers, these sellers will make the subscriptions for you in the country where your Starlink kit was activated.
If you do go down that route, not that we’re encouraging it, you might want to make the monthly payments yourself. You could always make use of a Mastercard/Visa card.
Some sellers, like the one above, will charge an outrageous $150 for monthly subs when Starlink requires only $47 in Mozambique, for example. Most sellers charge a reasonable $10 for the service if you require it.
Then there is the major issue regarding the requirement for Starlink kits to undergo reactivation in foreign countries where they have obtained licensing every two months.
One seller told us that this has not been an issue as one of their customers has had their kit for over 5 months and it has not needed reactivation.
Other sellers echoed the same, claiming the kits are going beyond the two months they should go for before undergoing reactivation.
That may be but if reactivation is needed, the sellers will assist with that too. You will have to take the kit down and send it away, outside the country.
The cheapest seller offers the service for free if you foot the transport bill. Some will charge for the reactivation exercise.
They have thought it all through.
Demand is there for all to see
Zimbabweans are fascinated by Starlink. The above shows that it’s not mere fascination but there is actual demand. The talking point is always that Zimbabweans cannot afford the $600 kit price but that’s not everybody.
With this kind of demand, some bad apples will also spring up. We have suspicions about some of the sellers we contacted. They required deposits upfront and did not have any kits on hand even though their social media posts claimed otherwise.
I would be surprised if there weren’t some people who paid those deposits and never got what they paid for. Remember, if you decide to go down this illegal route of acquiring Starlink kits on the black market and are swindled, you might not have any recourse.
The hope is that Starlink will be licensed in the country sooner rather than later. That way our people won’t have to go through these inconveniences to surf the web.