Zimbabwe Licenses Starlink for Satellite Internet Services in Strategic Tech Partnership

Zimbabwe has officially become the eighth African country to license Elon Musk’s Starlink to provide satellite internet services, marking a significant milestone in the nation’s technological advancement.

The announcement was made by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday, revealing that Starlink will partner with local company IMC Communications (Pvt) Ltd, owned by businessman Wicknell Chivayo, who is a known associate of the president.

During the announcement, President Mnangagwa emphasized the importance of emerging technologies, stating that they are “one of the strategic pillars” of his government. He congratulated IMC Communications and Starlink on their partnership, which aims to revolutionize Zimbabwe’s digital and communications landscape. The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) granted the licensing rights exclusively to IMC Communications.

“I take this opportunity, on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe, to congratulate IMC Communications (Pvt) Ltd and Starlink on this commendable milestone aimed at revolutionizing the digital and communications technology landscape in Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said.

Economist Stevenson Dlamini welcomed Starlink’s arrival, highlighting its potential to reduce the high cost of data and improve internet speeds in Zimbabwe. However, he noted that the initial setup costs might be prohibitive.

“It will cost an arm and a leg, but in the long run, it will be worth it. In rural communities, we can only wish that the government purchases the kits to supply schools, hospitals, and other public facilities in need,” Dlamini added.

Besides Zimbabwe, the other African countries that have licensed Starlink include Rwanda, Benin, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi. Notably, Rwanda offers the cheapest Starlink kits in Africa at 485,000 Rwandan francs (R7,000), while prices in other parts of the continent can reach up to R12,000.

This development follows a period of suspension for Starlink in Zimbabwe until it secured licensing approval from POTRAZ. The regulatory authority had proposed that Starlink either apply directly for a license or collaborate with a registered local network to offer its services. Starlink chose the latter, partnering with IMC Communications.

President Mnangagwa expressed optimism about the impact of Starlink’s entry into Zimbabwe’s digital telecommunications sector. He highlighted the potential for deploying high-speed, low-cost, low Earth orbit (LEO) internet infrastructure across the country, particularly in rural areas, aligning with his administration’s commitment to inclusive development.

“The entry by Starlink in the digital telecommunications space in Zimbabwe is expected to result in the deployment of high speed, low cost, LEO internet infrastructure throughout Zimbabwe and particularly in all the rural areas. This will be in fulfillment of my Administration’s undertaking to leave no one and no place behind,” Mnangagwa stated.

As of 2021, only 34% of Zimbabwe’s population had access to the internet, a figure that lags behind regional neighbors such as Botswana and South Africa, which have internet penetration rates of 73.5% and 72.3% respectively. The introduction of Starlink is anticipated to significantly improve these statistics, bridging the digital divide and fostering economic growth through enhanced connectivity.

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