Chinese bank loan to Zimbabwe’s NetOne to upgrade rural 4G

Chinese bank loan to Zimbabwe’s NetOne to upgrade rural 4G

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

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