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Douglas Mboweni

The days when Zimbabweans looked to their southern neighbour South Africa to learn about new technologies are coming to a close, particularly in the area of cellphone technologies, mobile banking and solar power. This is according to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe CEO, Douglas Mboweni.

He says Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, through its sister company, Liquid Telecom, has built one of the most advanced fibre optic systems in Africa, which stretches from Durban in South Africa, all the way to DRC.

In Zimbabwe, the company, which also owns Zimbabwe Online, has built 'Fibre to the curb' in the country's major cities. This means you can have a fibre connected to your home or business within hours. South Africa's mobile broadband penetration is nowhere near that of Zimbabwe and it is not possible to get a fibre link to the home virtually on demand, he says.

Econet Wireless has already connected more than 2.5 million 3G users in a population  of only 12 million, which means, over 22% of the population have mobile Internet access. Another 2.,5 million Zimbabweans access the Internet using other methods.

Econet Wireless  has also invested heavily in Mobile Money Transfer services. Its key service, EcoCash, moves millions of dollars every day from urban to rural areas,  and almost 2 million Zimbabweans do all their business using EcoCash transfers.

In contrast, he says, South African operators have struggled to get people to use Mobile Money transfer services. Even Vodacom, that is part of Vodafone, which set up M-PESA in Kenya, has not made the same headway in South Africa.

Mboweni says: "Zimbabweans have a high level of literacy and so they know what is happening elsewhere, and they want us, as their operator, to provide it. They are also very proud of us, as their own homegrown champion. Econet started here and has gone global. It reminds Zimbabweans that we are good enough to take on the world, and be excellent."  

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