Chinese bank grants Zim $218m

HARARE - China Exim Bank has granted Zimbabwe a $218 million loan to finance installation of a national mobile broadband network ecosystem, businessdaily has learnt.

Chinese firm Huawei Technologies (Huawei), the technical partner in the project, yesterday indicated that it was ready to roll out the programme, which would be structured to include the retail services sector, the network construction sector, the speed of deployment and open access model.

“We hope we will be able to start the programme in the second quarter of this year, but this will depend on how soon the two governments (China and Zimbabwe) would have signed the loan,” said Wen Mingxuan, the managing director of Huawei Zimbabwe.

Mingxuan noted that the exercise, which is anticipated to stimulate and sustain the general economy of Zimbabwe in the short and long term, will take between two to three years to complete.

“We are busy preparing the ground work so that once the signing is done we can quickly get to work. Due to the nature of the job we are expecting to double our staff complement from 100 to 200 this year,” he said.

Huawei has already implemented 14 national broadband networks globally and recently indicated it was ready to support governments and operators in the region to deploy broadband leveraging on its knowledge throughout the years and ensure economic benefits are achieved.

Market experts contend that the multi-million dollar project is also poised to lure investors in the country’s fast growing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector that has vast opportunities for investment.

In addition to bringing high speed broadband Internet, the setting up of the national broadband network, will help cultivate a new and healthy ecosystem conducive to more cooperation between players such as the government, operator, service provider and customer.

“The resulting drop in communication and Internet connectivity costs will be a relief to many and will effectively make mobile and Internet communication available to more low income Zimbabweans who have so far been left out of such developments,” said Pattison Maseva, a Harare-based ICT expert.

“The establishment of the national broadband network will almost certainly reduce Internet prices although it must be pointed out that in the initial stages of the connectivity, tariffs will be high owing to the need by these companies to return their investments.

But in the long run, Internet, and other telecommunications services which will be based on this linking will drastically fall down,” he said.

According to statistics and analyses from the World Bank, a 10 percent increase in broadband usage translates into 1,38 percent Gross Domestic Product growth.  Therefore, broadband gives the best return on investment in telecommunication services.

Zimbabwe’s ICT sector is forecast to grow by four percent in 2014, figures released by Treasury have shown.

Experts say growth in the sector is expected to be underpinned by data and other Internet services.

Mobile companies in Zimbabwe are already diversifying into other services such as mobile money and data platforms to broaden their revenue streams.


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