Starlink cleared for service in Zimbabwe

Starlink cleared for service in Zimbabwe

LEO satellite operator Starlink has been cleared for a licence to offer services in Zimbabwe by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who said he has given the country’s telecoms regulator approval to do so.

In a post on X (a.k.a. Twitter) on Saturday, Mnangagwa said that the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has been cleared to licence Starlink to offer “advanced internet and related digital processing services” via its exclusive local partner, IMC Communications.

“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 and particularly in all the rural areas,” Mnangagwa said.

The announcement comes after POTRAZ spent much of this year cracking down on illegal usage of Starlink services. In January, reports surfaced that POTRAZ was conducting nationwide raids to arrest people using Starlink kits, and warned that anyone running ads to sell Starlink kits or subscriptions in Zimbabwe could be arrested.

Similar stories have played out in other countries across Africa, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Senegal, Mali and Sudan, according to Ecofin Agency, as well as some Pacific island states.

Starlink disconnected services in Zimbabwe in mid-April at POTRAZ’s request. Also last month, Starlink said it would halt its roaming service to countries where it did not have an operating licence, following reports that people in such countries were buying Starlink subscriptions and equipment overseas and importing them for local use.

That said, the recent fiasco over subsea cable cuts causing internet outages across Africa over the last couple of months has shed light on the benefits of satellite-based options. After four subsea cables were severed off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire in March, Ghana – which banned sales of Starlink kits last year – issued a licence to Starlink the following month.

Mnangagwa said that allowing Starlink to operate in Zimbabwe would not only bridge the country’s digital divide, but also boost enough confidence in the country’s telecoms infrastructure to encourage investment.  

“I encourage more investment by foreign conglomerates in Zimbabwe as we are an investment destination of choice,” he said.

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