Min of ICT says the landlocked status of Zim cause of high data costs, Zambia says ‘what?’

Leonard Sengere Avatar

Zambia is an interesting country, mostly because we share a very similar history. What’s even more interesting is that we also share strikingly similar geography and demographics.

Zimbabwe does have more natural resources, to our shame. However, there is no other country for which comparisons make the most sense. This has proved to be inconvenient for those who would use our circumstances as an excuse.

Today we focus on the one excuse we have heard over and over – internet access is expensive in Zimbabwe because the country is landlocked.

As recently as December 2023, our ICT Minister Tatenda Mavetera gave us the same old,

I know a lot of times people have been asking me…, ‘where are we in making sure our data becomes cheaper?’ …

… and that is exactly our thrust … so that we have the cheapest data in Africa or the world but here we are, Zimbabwe is a landlocked country.

Because Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, you’ll realise that there is no data that we get cheap…

Is it an excuse?

The excuse works because on some level it is true. We are landlocked and that undoubtedly affects our internet prices. How?

We will not assume people understand why being landlocked leads to higher internet prices. So, in short, although we mostly use the internet wirelessly, the stuff we consume is transported via cables.

It is usually just the last step from your router or the base station in your neighbourhood to your phone that is transmitted wirelessly.

So, if you want to view a webpage that is hosted on a computer in the United States, that data travels via wires. Including some cables deep under the sea that connect continents. It’s wires up to your base station and then the data hops the last few metres to your phone wirelessly.

This is where being landlocked is a negative:

Limited infrastructure: The absence of direct access to undersea cables results in higher costs for laying and maintaining the cables that transport data (terrestrial infrastructure). In some cases, this country hopping can lead to significantly higher latency (lower response).

Reliance on neighbouring countries: We depend on neighbouring countries for internet transit. This reliance on transit agreements with other nations contributes to increased costs, as these agreements involve fees and additional logistical challenges.

So, the landlocked excuse is not an excuse but a reality. However, this is where Zambia throws a spanner into the works.

Zambia is just as landlocked as Zimbabwe. So, whatever applies here, applies there as well. Yet, the landlocked excuse is not used up north as much as it is here.

Internet prices – Zim v Zam

In both countries, fibre internet is still a rich man’s game. Only a minority connects to the internet via fibre. However, let’s still compare the prices.

Fibre is a good one to compare because not only are these both landlocked countries as we discussed, we also have a carrier operating in both countries – Liquid Intelligent Technologies.

Here is what Liquid charges for the cheapest unlimited package in both countries:

  • Fibre Home Lite 5 @5Mbps (Zambia) – K600 (US$23.13)
  • FibroniX Family Entertainment @100Mbps (Zimbabwe) – Z$2,059,420 (from US$189 to US$317)
  • Please feel free to click on the Orange text and that will take you to Liquid’s product pages where you can verify the prices I quoted

Note: the Zimbabwean package boasts much higher speeds, however, 99% of the population would switch to a cheaper package at lower speeds if such an option was available. Heck, until late 2023, Liquid topped its capped packages at 10Mbps because they said people didn’t really need or utilise higher speeds. So, it’s a mystery why there is no $23-5Mbps package in Zim.

Also note: the Zimbabwean package has a range of prices because of the currency situation. The $189 figure comes from using the most generous black market rate of 1:10900 whilst the $317 comes from using the official rate.

Having said all that, you can see just how much more expensive it is in Zimbabwe. The $23 that gets you unlimited data in Zambia is only good for 40GB in Zimbabwe. It’s probably because Zimbabwe is landlocked, I’m sure.

We won’t even look at capped packages because there are none in Zambia. I mean, when the cheapest unlimited one is $23, there really isn’t need for a cheaper fibre package.

The other competition

Here is what some of the competition in both countries charge for their cheapest uncapped fibre, ADSL and 5G packages:

  • TelOne (Zimbabwe) – Intense @20Mbps – Z$2018750 (US$185 to US$311 – pretty much the same as Liquid Zimbabwe)
  • Zamtel (Zambia) – Unlimited FTTX Fibre @5Mbps – K649 (US$25.02)
  • Zamtel (Zambia) – Unlimited ADSL @1Mbps – K990 (US$38.16)
  • Telco (Zimbabwe) – no unlimited option listed on their site. The 100GB package @ 5Mbps costs US$126.50
  • Utande (Zimbabwe) – Business Standard @15Mbps – US$145
  • MTN (Zambia) – 5G Uncapped – K999 (US$38.51)

In all these, the Zimbabwean internet providers are much more expensive. I guess it’s the landlocked thing again.

What of mobile?

This article is getting too long and the mobile story is even longer and so let’s leave that for next time.

When we tackle mobile data prices we will consider usage habits. We know that many Zimbos only purchase social media bundles and the daily and weekly ones at that. We will look at all those and compare that to what the landlocked Zambians get.

Landlocked as an excuse

In all this, our data prices in Zimbabwe are affected by our landlocked status but that’s just one small piece to the puzzle of expensive data. We do know that some landlocked countries have agreements with neighbouring coastal countries for direct cable landings.

Instead of throwing around excuses, shouldn’t the Ministry of ICT’s main agenda include striking deals like that with Mozambique and South Africa that lead to much lower costs for our ISPs?

That said, many in this sector will tell you that the main reason for high broadband prices in Zimbabwe is that there isn’t much competition in the terrestrial fibre space.

The major players who have the cables that bring the internet to Zimbabwe from the sea are Liquid and TelOne and their charging practices leave a lot to be desired.

So, sometimes we hurl insults at Econet, NetOne and Telecel when Liquid and TelOne deserve most of the blame.

We are not oblivious to the fact that their fibre networks cost money to install but it costs Liquid just as much to lay fibre in Zambia as it does in Zimbabwe. So, why do they charge so much more here?

That’s what we need to look at because as much as I’m convinced that they are overcharging, I also cannot dispute that there are some unique features of their Zimbabwean operations that lead to the vast differences.

We shall have to look into this in detail too.

Also read:

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42 comments

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  1. Longhirst

    The Zimbabwe we want

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Will we get it?

      1. Always Off Topic

        Of course we will never get it. Because we are not willing to take responsibility and do something about it. We have always known of the predatory nature of the powers that be, its nothing new. We think a better Zimbabwe will fall from the sky like manna from heaven.

        1. Anonymous

          I use Liquid Home and telone & l can surely argue that the 100mb/s is a complete lie, most of our internet service providers doesn’t offer internet with such speed. It takes an average of 15 mins to download something that is 100 to 150 mb in size. We are being overcharged on the basis that our internet has a speed of 100mb/s yet it’s way slower than that.

  2. gold mafia

    open for business
    the business of looting.lol

    1. Leonard Sengere

      They never told us which business Zimbabwe was open for and so you might be right there 😂

  3. Tashinga

    The most culprit is Zimbabwean government for internet to be more expensive. Why would we pay 10% Excise duty? Government is already receiving a lot of money from these telcos businesses in the way of 15% VAT; 25.5% Income Tax; PAYE; 2% IMT; and US$6.85 million per year operating license compared to our neighbor Zambia pay US$100 000 per year which is also a land locked country. In Zambia Data is cheaper than in Zimbabwe. Sorry Government and to New minister of ICT…. we need a break!

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I agree with you there. It’s not a matter of us being landlocked. It’s a matter of our govt running out of ideas on how to raise revenue that they have resorted to taxing these businesses so ridiculously that they can’t help but overcharge us.
      Taxes play a huge role in our data prices.

      1. Peter Nyamukusa

        I can easily fix this see my post on Linkedin where I have helped Malawi who is also a LandLocked country. I built a Virtual Landing Point (VLP) to bring the submarine capacity inland and link them with Tanzania, Zambia & Mozambique between 2013 & 2014 bring down the cost of internet from USD3,000 per Mbps

        https://www.linkedin.com/posts/peter-nyamukusa-437b0015_a-snippet-of-our-story-bringing-hope-to-activity-7153278624077361153-sOfB?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop

  4. Justin

    Liquid is use by Econet/Masiyiwa to move his profits out of Zimbabwe via transfer pricing. Any comparison involving Masiyiwa distorts the picture

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I had not heard this argument. Sounds unlikely but 🤷🏾‍♂️

    2. The Empress

      OK let’s see what give the argument the benefit of doubt and say its true. Then how do you explain Telone a government owned parastatal charging nearly similar amounts for data.
      Because in this scenario the government saw Liquid overcharging the people of Zimbabwe and decided to allow Telone to join in the fun. Is that what you are saying?
      But then again this is Zimbabwe and where anything is possible so…

      1. The Empress

        Meant to say “Let’s give that argument the benefit of doubt”
        My english is not englishing

      2. Leonard Sengere

        It really is not plausible even in the Wild Wild West frontier called Zimbabwe. But the elders said ‘never say never’.

      3. Munhu

        All parastatals are government cash cows. There is too much corruption and you can’t sneeze without being asked to pay.

  5. Justin

    Liquid is use by Econet/Masiyiwa to move his profits out of Zimbabwe via transfer pricing. Any comparison involving Masiyiwa distorts the picture.

  6. Bruce

    Starlink !!!!!

    1. Banner

      Brah!!! It’s so simple!

    2. Leonard Sengere

      If only it were that simple.

  7. Bell

    We are being ripped off by these greedy monsters.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I wouldn’t call them monsters but we are getting ripped off and I agree with the greedy part.

  8. Bra Tee

    The prices for Zim is high but also check the speeds for Zambia they r way too low at 5mbps and that one for Zim @ 100mbps

    1. Leonard Sengere

      We would gladly trade our 100Mbps for an uncapped 5Mbps and the Zimbabwean ISP know it.

      1. Anonymous

        Plus most of us dont really need those 100mbs speeds we just wanna facebook, whatsapp and tweet hazvide mazi speed

  9. ICT GUY ZIM

    The speeds of the data your using in Zimbabwe compared to the speeds in Zambia,surely there is some high quality speeds here in Zimbabwe

    1. The Last Don

      Where is the high quality of data and speeds when every user is complaining about the sluggish fibre networks and even unavailability of the same networks?

    2. Leonard Sengere

      I just did a speed test and I got 27.9 down and 32.5 up. I should be getting 50 but I’m not complaining too much because its more than enough for my use.

      If we consistently got these speeds we would not be as pissed. Reality is sometimes you get the 50, sometimes it’s 2 and occasionally it’s 0 as they attend to ‘fibre breaks’

  10. Richard

    Same reason why fuel is also cheaper in zambia after being transported via zimbabwe

    1. Leonard Sengere

      It really is ridiculous.

  11. Increase Internet Speed

    Starlink all the way. Better stop wasting time on these lobengula slow internet speeds

    1. D.K.

      The officials are also looking at Starlink, but not the one you, I and most of us would want! They are looking at the Chinese G60 Starlink!

    2. Starlink user from Zambia

      Yo…. Starlink is a game changer..

      We pay ZMW771 per month or USD30 (at today’s rate) and it hits upwards of 20MB/s…. That’s 200mbps + and is unlimited.

      For ZMW1000 you can take the Starlink with you anywhere in Africa and have super high-speed internet.

      There is an insane demand for Starlink through Zambian account from Zimbabwe right now.. amongst other neighbours.

      It will work there and there are already people importing them to Zim.

  12. D.K.

    With very close friends from the time of the war of liberation in the name of Mozambique and South Africa, would we be saying we are landlocked? When there was the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, comprising of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Nyasaland (Malawi), most of the development occurred in the present Zimbabwe, which was the capital of the Federation. The railway system, airport and radio broadcasting systems and the administration of the Federation was done here. The other two countries did not have much done for them, imagine radio studios for Zambia and Malawi were located in Zimbabwe and all the announcers were here. We benefitted in the buildings for the administration, most of which are in use, and are still strong and beautiful.
    With the above, how did Zambia manage to get ahead of us in most things to do with the life of the common citizen, even when they inherited very little from the Federation? Is it because they did not have a liberation war and no-one thinks or feels entitled to be paid, because Zambia is actually more landlocked than Zimbabwe?

    1. Leonard Sengere

      You know, when it’s laid out like this, you’re reminded just how far we have fallen. Colonisation was no picnic but as Zimbabwe we got to plunder our Northern neighbours courtesy of the racist Rhodesian regime.

      We wasted this lead and Zambia has gained on us, overtaking us in some major areas.

      I think I agree that the liberation war and the entitlement it created in the liberators is the difference.

  13. Collin

    What I know is that internet speed is Zambia is better than in Zimbabwe. I can stream live soccer and watch it uninterrupted. Try streaming with Buddie mobile data and see if you can watch it uninterrupted.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I don’t see the lie there. These Zim ISPs are just not reliable enough. You can struggle to send WhatsApp messages, let alone stream video.

  14. Starlink internet user from Zambia

    Hello from Zambia.

    It’s all well and good to compare pricing but what for stability?

    Liquid is absolutely crap in Zambia and goes down so often people have to resort to other data providers (usually mobile networks)

    Our mobile networks are cheaper per GB than your fiber yet get their supply from the same sources. This again doesn’t make sense when comparing to Zimbabwe and doesn’t take into consideration their instability too..

    This is a problem of governance. Why would a PRIVATE company reduce costs when the government doesn’t care to enforce consumer protection and incentivize competition and reduction of cost in the industry?

    What’s most like happening is that the Zim government makes a killing (big money) from the ISPs and this causes the cost to the consumer to be that high..

    Do what Zambia did, get rid of the rot in your government.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Here’s what will blow your mind. Liquid in Zimbabwe is now probably just as unreliable or even worse. It’s down so often we don’t even call customer support nowadays. Even the advertised speeds are only hot line 10% of the time.

      So, we’re more expensive but without the speed or stability to show for it.

      In with you on the problem being a governance one. A greedy government that relies on taxes from the ICT sector will not seriously ensure they don’t overcharge. After all, the more they overcharge, the more the government collects.

  15. Anonymous

    🤣🤣🤣 “The $23 that gets you unlimited data in Zambia is only good for 40GB in Zimbabwe. It’s probably because Zimbabwe is landlocked, I’m sure.” 🤣🤣🤣

  16. Munhu

    She is probably mad or drinking to much wine or probably both .

  17. DC

    After the Gold mafia is this internet mafia. There is very little in reason for such a disparity.

  18. James

    The possibility of Zimbabwe being successful is 0.001% so stop dreaming

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