Mnangagwa Grants Starlink License To His Sidekick

Mnangagwa and Starlink (Image: zimDaily)
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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s telecommunications landscape is set for a significant transformation as Zanu PF benefactor Wicknell Chivayo and his company IMC Communications secure the coveted Starlink deal, following the government’s approval of Elon Musk’s innovation to operate in the country.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on Saturday that he has “approved the licensing of Starlink by POTRAZ, the country’s telecommunications regulator, to provide advanced internet and related digital processing services in Zimbabwe.”

In a statement shared on his X account, Mnangagwa underscored the importance of technology in daily activities, emphasizing the government’s commitment to promoting investment in the sector. He expressed pleasure in approving the licensing of Starlink, in partnership with IMC Communications, to offer advanced internet services, particularly in rural areas.

Starlink, a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite operator owned by SpaceX, led by American billionaire Elon Musk, is expected to deploy high-speed, low-cost internet infrastructure across Zimbabwe, aligning with Mnangagwa’s vision of inclusive development.

“This will be in fulfillment of my administration’s undertaking to leave no one and no place behind,” Mnangagwa stated, highlighting the government’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra and encouraging further foreign investment in the country.

The move comes amid previous arrests of local operators, including Neville Mutsvangwa, son of a cabinet minister, for allegedly using Starlink illegally. Mutsvangwa remains in custody facing charges related to unauthorized use of the service.

While the licensing of Starlink aligns with national objectives, concerns have been raised about the awarding of the tender to a businessman with close ties to Zanu PF, potentially raising questions about the use of state resources for partisan interests.

Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi are among the African countries that have already licensed Starlink, reflecting the growing importance of satellite technology in expanding internet access across the continent.

The government is set to reveal the “technical modalities” for licensing the satellite internet service provider Starlink through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz). This follows President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent announcement on his X (formerly Twitter) account approving Starlink’s licensing by Potraz, aiming to provide advanced internet and digital processing services across Zimbabwe.

Starlink, owned by South Africa-born American billionaire Elon Musk, operates a satellite internet system and low-earth orbit (LEO) network known for delivering high-speed internet globally.

This initiative seeks to bolster the digital economy, bridge the digital divide, and fulfill the government’s promise to “leave no one and no place behind.”

Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Tatenda Mavetera, expressed gratitude for the President’s support. “We are happy that we have a listening President. We are soon going to announce the technical modalities together with Potraz. This will ensure that no one and no place is left behind,” Mavetera told our Harare Bureau.

Potraz director-general Dr. Gift Machengete confirmed that Starlink had applied for a license and consultations were underway.

President Mnangagwa highlighted that Starlink’s entry would usher in a new era of high-speed, low-cost internet services. “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, particularly in all rural areas,” he stated.

This initiative aligns with the Second Republic’s Vision 2030, which prioritizes innovation, science, and technology as strategic pillars for development. The government aims to lead in creating an environment conducive to technological investment.

“I am pleased to announce that I have approved the licensing of Starlink by Potraz to provide advanced internet and related digital processing services in Zimbabwe through its sole and exclusive local partner, IMC Communications (Pvt) Ltd,” Mnangagwa added.

Starlink, a subsidiary of SpaceX led by Elon Musk, the world’s third richest person, will be instrumental in achieving Zimbabwe’s goal of becoming a fully digitalized, upper middle-income economy by 2030.

Mnangagwa encouraged more foreign investment in Zimbabwe, emphasizing the country as an “investment destination of choice.” He congratulated IMC Communications and Starlink on their milestone, which is expected to revolutionize Zimbabwe’s digital and communications technology landscape.

Starlink’s technology offers competitive prices for universal connectivity, unlimited data, seamless self-installation, and high internet speeds. The hardware costs approximately US$600, with monthly subscriptions averaging US$50, providing download speeds above 100 megabits per second (Mbps). In comparison, the cheapest unlimited internet service in Zimbabwe costs about US$240 per month, with speeds significantly lower than those offered by Starlink.

According to Potraz statistics, Zimbabwe’s internet penetration stands at approximately 70.1 percent.