Forex Shortage Choking Development In Telecommunications Sector

  • Universal services fund providing inadequate funds
  • Foreign currency not enough to finance projects and purchase equipment
  • Minister Muswere’s promise of deploying over 1000 base stations in 2021 might never be fulfilled.

Telecommunications players are failing to pay loans on time leaving them in serious depts and the amounts being allocated to them by the government are not enough to meet the foreign currency needed for network upgrades.

This was revealed by permanent secretary Dr Samuel Kundishora while addressing the portfolio committee on Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Sector (ICT).

For us to cope with the pivotal role being played by broadband connectivity in the digital world and not get left behind the government has to fully support the upgrading and expansion of base stations as a matter of priority.

As a result of the Regulations and Taxes imposed by the government concerning us of foreign currency and further worsened by the covid 19 restrictions as well as hyperinflation and depts, MNOs cannot fund projects on their own because the necessary equipment is expensive and requires foreign currency, a necessity which they don’t have.

The government’s funds are far below the intended target of currency required by MNOs for projects.

According to Dr Kundishora netone received US$1,9 million from the foreign currency auction system (Universal Service Fund) since its establishment last year, from which US$1,365 million went towards repayment of arrears of the US$40,7 loan from China Exim bank while it requires UD$413,8 million for initiation of various projects.

He said that Econet wireless has got US$41,7 million which went towards the settlement of international credits although it requires US$ 131,5 million to settle its obligations.

He also added that the lengthy time it takes to receive funds was affecting operations and straining relations with foreign suppliers. This is one of the things that Zimbabweans have to fight against, unnecessary inconvenience.

This revelation comes at a time when ICT Minister Jenfran Muswere is going about promising more base stations in 2021 under the Universal Services Fund, the same Universal Services Fund which is dispursing well below the required capital to finance the base station deployments.

“Our key obligation is to ensure that there is the deployment of ICT infrastructure in the rural areas, this is supported by infrastructure sharing which will be accelerated. In 2021 we are going to deploy more base stations in rural areas under the POTRAZ universal services fund.” said the Minister at the recently held launch of Nyachuru Containerised information centre (CVIC) in Mashonaland Central Province.

Minister Muswere also promised to set up 1187 base station sites in 2021 at the world summit on the information society (WSIS) forum in March but now it has become apparent that his ambitions are likely to overwhelm him as there is limited capital
for the project.