Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is one of the local companies that are too big to fail. I once wrote an article where I discussed some of the Zimbabwean companies that are too big to fail – Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is one of them. It is the biggest mobile network operator (MNO) in the country. It has a market cap of over ZWL$4 billion, over 11 million subscribers and its network coverage spans over 90% of Zimbabwe. Econet initially started off focusing solely on telecoms services but has diversified into so much more over the years. This is one of the cardinal reasons why it has remained the biggest MNO locally. Recently they released a statement laying out the trajectory that it is now taking.
Econet’s Recent Statement
“We are creating awareness of the vast digital opportunities at the disposal of Econet customers to ensure they take full advantage of them and enjoy the value and convenience that our services and our digital platforms bring to their lives. We are raising awareness to our music products, coming out of Buddie Beatz Music app – which already has over 45 000 songs – and to our gaming products, featuring YoPlay and Elevate Gaming – which is now Africa’s number one gaming platform. We are excited to let the market know that our connectivity products – made possible by the Buddie brand and the social media packages we offer through our vast 3G, LTE and 4G data infrastructure powering our digital platforms – are giving customers the freedom to chat, shop, explore and do so much more from anywhere, at any time. And we want the market to know that through products like Connected Lifestyle – Connected Home and Connected Car – customers can truly find a smarter way of living. ”
Going Digital Is The Way To Go
Econet’s thrust to create and provide platforms that enhance people’s lives digitally is noble. This is something Econet has already kicked off and is determined to champion, even more, going forward. All over the world digitization through the uptake of tech innovations is now commonplace. This is an area Zimbabwe is usually labelled to be lagging behind in. There are so many opportunities that get unlocked as more and more people take up digital lifestyles. The digital economy is a huge deal nowadays with some of the world’s richest people being global tech titans championing digital innovations as businesses.
Some Issues Of Concern Though
There is no doubt about Econet’s dominance in the local mobile data market. Roughly 70% of all local data traffic belongs to Econet. Over 83% of the 3G data infrastructure belongs again to Econet. Then almost 70% of the 4G (LTE) infrastructure belongs to Econet. They are unquestionable market leaders in these regards locally. However, despite being at the apex, their data packages are for the most part the most expensive. This is not helping anything especially regarding their quest to enhance lives by helping people lead digital lifestyles. It is a common occurrence that most people struggle to even have WhatsApp data bundles – what more other things. There is a need for data packages to be made more accessible by them being priced within the reach of many. Otherwise, the dream of seeing Zimbabweans leading digital lifestyles becomes at best just a pipe dream.
The other challenge is that Zimbabwe is predominantly rural – about 69% of them. Most of these people do not own smartphones thus cannot access data services. There is also the issue of limited or no access to electricity amongst that same demographic. We are all aware that power cuts (i.e. load shedding) is common these days. This is also a huge setback in the pursuit of promoting digital lifestyles. To add on, there is the problem of the public’s perception of Econet. This cannot be taken for granted because there is a grossly negative perception of Econet due to a wide range of issues chief amongst them being poor handling of customer service complaints. So that is another area that needs serious attention.
Econet’s intentions and aspirations are noble and most welcome. I believe some of the issues I have raised should be given due attention so that the trajectory they have taken comes to its intended destination. I also think Econet should not roll out too many innovations before perfecting the existing ones. I feel too much diversification ends up robbing some of their innovations of the intent attention they would need to become consummate.