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China-backed broadband progresses in Zimbabwe

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-09-22 09:41
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Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa (right) launches the National Mobile Broadband project, undertaken with Huawei, in the capital Harare on Monday. [SHAUN JUSA/XINHUA]

HARARE-Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday launched the National Mobile Broadband project so as to expand and improve the country's information and communications technology, or ICT, services.

The project, which is now in the third phase, is a partnership between Chinese ICT giant Huawei and Zimbabwe's second-largest telecommunications provider NetOne.

The $71 million expansion project is funded by the Export-Import Bank of China, and is a strategic cooperation project between the governments of China and Zimbabwe. It is aimed at expanding NetOne's mobile broadband coverage to remote regions.

The first phase of the network expansion project, which began in 2011 and was completed in 2013, saw the installation of 100 3G and 350 2G base stations.

The second phase in 2014 saw a total of 2,231 base stations added.

Upon completion, the third phase will see 345 new base stations installed, thereby increasing NetOne's national coverage from 75 to 85 percent.

The expansion project will also improve the network provider's 4G coverage and introduce 5G technology.

Speaking at the official launch in the capital Harare, Mnangagwa said building a vibrant digital economy is a vital component in his government's goal of realizing an upper-middle-income economy by 2030.

"My government's mandate is to ensure the access and utilization of information communication technologies to improve the livelihoods of all Zimbabweans, irrespective of location," he said. "I acknowledge the sterling efforts of NetOne and Huawei, as the country continues to expand its network, digital footprint, and increase access to ICTs in previously marginalized communities."

Mnangagwa also said the project will steer the country toward the digital future that will transform Zimbabwe into a regional technology hub.

Speaking at the launch, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun assured China's support toward the development of Zimbabwe's ICT sector.

"With the long-term efforts of my colleagues, China successfully completed many projects to support Zimbabwe to develop high-tech industry such as high-performance computer centers, the first ICT factory and so on," Guo said. "Especially the NetOne phase one and two projects that extended network coverage from major cities to the countryside."

Phil Li, Huawei's regional president, said the project will not only increase digital connectivity, but will also enhance social and economic opportunities that come along with building a strong digital economy.

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