Policy Brief 2, 2019
This policy brief assesses the evolution of the mobile broadband market in Zambia. The brief specifically investigate the effect of the scheduled entry of the fourth player on mobile data prices and Internet uptake. The brief also examines the effect of social media tax on data affordability and uptake. Despite the huge reduction in the cost of mobile broadband in Zambia, a 2018 ICT survey shows that more than 85% of Zambians do not use the Internet. The evidence gathered in this policy brief shows that affordability is the main inhibitor to Internet access and use. This is in line with the 2017-2018 After Access survey conducted by Research ICT Africa in 10 African countries showed that the main inhibitors of Internet use in Africa are lack of Internet enabled devices, unaffordable data services and digital illiteracy. Emphasising the need for policymakers to look beyond the supply-side issues when addressing broadband access and usage in Africa. Internet uptake in Zambia remains below the critical mass of 20% necessary for a country to benefit from the network effects associated with economic growth. This trend is similar to other African countries, such as Mozambique Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania who all had less than 14% internet penetration in 2017-2018, with Rwanda’s being the lowest at 9%. One of the main inhibitors to Internet use faced by lot of people living in African countries is lack of affordability of both services and devices. This has been compounded by the introduction of social media tax in Zambia.
- After several postponement of Uzi, the new entrant, which was expected to launch in March 2018, ZICTA has announced the cancellation of Uzi’s licence. Uzi’s failure to launch its services might be related to operators predatory pricing strategy who after the announcement of the new player, embarked on fierce pricing competition that resulted in 70% reduction in data prices. Similarly, Vodacom Zambia, an Internet service provider using mobile broadband technology and have been insolvent for more than a year, had its licence officially revoked in September 2019.
- The reduction in prices improved Zambia rankings in the Research ICT Africa Mobile Pricing Index, moving up the Index from 31st in Q4 2017 to 13th place in Q1 2018.
- Zamtel, who control only 15% of the market, offers the cheapest 1GB data at USD 2.73 in Q2 2019, followed by MTN with the cheapest 1GB data at USD 3.82.
- The market is dominated by two players, MTN and Airtel, controlling about 85% of the market share.
- Despite the low prices, with Zambia being among top 15 cheapest countries in Africa, Internet use remains low, even below the necessary rates to benefit from network effects, with only 14% of Zambians using the Internet.
Mothobi, O. (2019). Uzi’s failed attempt to enter Zambian market leads to more than 70% fall in data prices (Policy Brief No. 2). Research ICT Africa. https://researchictafrica.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Zambia_SNT_RAMP_policy_brief_2-2019.pdf