29 May 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
Zimbabwe’s state-owned mobile operator NetOne is to expand its network in rural areas with the help of a $71 million loan from China.
The company, which is a subsidiary of fixed-line incumbent
TelOne, is close to agreeing the loan from the Exim Bank of
China, whose role is to stimulate Chinese exports.
NetOne CEO Lazurus Muchenje told Zimbabwe’s Herald
newspaper: "We are talking and we will soon receive a purse of
$71 million. The funds will be put in the construction and
upgrading of base stations around the country. We have areas
that were having poor connectivity and we are now moving there
to connect them to Zimbabwe and the world."
The sum of $71 million is identical to the value of an order
NetOne announced with Chinese vendor Huawei at the end of
December 2017. The Exim Bank previously gave NetOne another
loan, of $60 million, in 2011.
Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, began
talks about the latest Exim Bank loan during a visit to China
in early April.
Muchenje told the Herald: "We are now working on the finer
modalities with the bank and once that is done, NetOne will
commence the connectivity chapter. We expect all this to begin
before year end and we are positive to secure the funds."
The money will be focused on rural areas, according to reports
from Zimbabwe, as NetOne and its rivals have been criticised by
the government for poor coverage. Last year the regulator said it wanted to give priority
to rural coverage.