International Voice Traffic Might Actually Prove That Zim Is Open For Business

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar

Given the rise in use of Over The Top (OTT) services such as Whatsapp, Facebook, and other platforms one would assume that the international voice calls conducted through network providers will be on the slide.

The assumption is that people are making calls via Whatsapp, Skype and similar platforms and for a long time telecommunication companies have been competing with these platforms to ensure they can still get some money from voice calls.

This is why Whatsapp calls have been blocked on bundles offered by Econet. Telecel and NetOne allow users to make calls on Whatsapp but they both have very enticing promotions for voice calls so maybe they worry less about calls made through Whatsapp.

Swimming against the tide

Anyway, I was quite surprised when I realised that outgoing network-based international voice calls have actually been on the rise in the first quarter. There has been an increase in both fixed-line calls (landline) and mobile voice calls going outside the country. International calls going outside the country grew by more than 12% on fixed lines and on mobile there was a 6% growth compared to the fourth quarter.

Is Zim really open for business?

Just to confirm that this was not the norm, I quickly checked the trends over the past over the past few years. This is what the trend looked like for the past three years:

Fixed Voice Traffic – International Outgoing

PeriodPercentage (+/-) shift from 4th quarter to 1st quarter
2017-18(1st quarter)+12.36%
1st quarter – 2nd quarter-13.1

Mobile Voice Traffic – International Outgoing

PeriodPercentage (+/-) shift from 4th quarter to 1st quarter
2017-18 (1st quarter)+6.27%
1st quarter- 2nd quarter-11.2%

Considering the fact that international calls are much more expensive than ordinary calls, a rise of six and twelve percent is indicative of a very tangible shift.

Promotions may be playing their part as well

One of the factors that might be helping the international minutes rise on mobile, is the fact that Telecel has international voice bundles¬†that won’t break your bank entirely. It’s hard to determine whether these bundles are a big factor because they were around when international voice calls were on the slide in the last quarter of 2017.

Maybe we are open for business after all?

The Director General of POTRAZ, Dr Gift Machengete attributed the growth of the international voice traffic to how open we (Zimbabwe) are for business:

We are beginning to see increased business activity as a result of the international community warming up to us due to the “Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra,”

It’s hard to dismiss his argument and certainly I think it holds some water because the only other explanations for the increase in outgoing international voice calls seem less feasible.

If it’s not that the country is open for business, could it be because local Zimbabweans miss their relatives in the diaspora so much they are now the one’s calling them even though it’s more expensive to do so?

The only problem with this theory is that you would assume that Zimbabweans who can afford to make international calls also have mobile phones that can access Whatsapp, Skybe, Facebook and all the other services that can make significantly cheaper calls using data.

What do you think is the best explanation for the rise in the increase in outgoing voice traffic? Is it really the “open for business” issue or is there something we are missing? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.



  1. Anonymous

    “This is why Whatsapp calls have been blocked on bundles offered by Econet.” When did this actually happen? If someone only has Whatsapp daily or weekly bundles they cannot make voice calls?

  2. William Chui

    Missed it completely.

    Huge calls going out the country does not point towards “open for business” but more a reflection of the exchange rate and how it is now cheaper to call outside than have someone call you, because your calls are reduced by 1:1.75 due to the exchange rate.

    Worse still, telecoms providers have to pay those interconnections for outgoing calls in real money USD, while they are being paid less (incoming calls) and so it will come to a stage when telecoms operators will restrict outgoing calls or make it difficult (throttle calls?) in order to reduce their financial obligations to external providers.

    Then there’s the issue of refilling….