Starlink receives licence approval in Zimbabwe, albeit through unusual circumstances

The day has finally come, my dear friends. Starlink has been given the green light to operate in Zimbabwe. We all knew it was going to happen eventually but that confidence was shaken for a bit, I’m not going to lie.

President Mnangagwa had this to say,

One of the strategic pillars that anchor the 2nd Republic’s developmental agenda under Vision 2030 is innovation, science and technology. Prioritization of the digital economy and the emerging importance of technology in our day to day activities requires Government to lead from the front in providing an environment where investment in technology is promoted.

In this vein, I’m pleased to announce that i have approved the licensing of Starlink by POTRAZ to provide advanced internet and related digital processing services in Zimbabwe through its sole and exclusive local partner, IMC Communications (Pvt) Ltd. Starlink is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite operator wholly owned by global conglomerate Space X led by promiment multi-billionaire Elon Musk.

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. This will be in fulfillment of my Administration’s undertaking to leave no one and no place behind. The investment confidence expressed by Starlink in Zimbabwe’s telecommunications infrastructure also dovetails with the 2nd Republic’s mantra, “Zimbabwe is open for business”. I encourage more investment by foreign conglomerates in Zimbabwe as we are an investment destination of choice.

I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe, to congratulate IMC Communications (Pvt) Ltd and Starlink on this commendable milestone aimed at revolutionizing the digital and communications technology landscape in Zimbabwe. Investments of this magnitude and strategic importance represent the cornerstone for achieving the 2nd Republic’s objective of having a fully digitalized, upper-middle income economy by 2030.

President Mnangagwa

Take your wins when you get them

The above is a win. Starlink might turn out to be a huge catalyst in the connectivity fight we are waging, leading to better economic outcomes for Zimbabweans. Or it could end up having a negligible impact.

Either way, as has been our plea this whole time, we just want the option. Now watch enterprising Zimbaweans work with this.

There are aspects of how Starlink got approved that are concerning. I might be alone on this one but to hear the President say “I approved” the licensing of Starlink sounds a little weird.

You might need to educate me on this one but shouldn’t POTRAZ have full authority on such decisions? What should happen when the telecoms experts at POTRAZ advocate for some action and the Presdient disapproves? That’s probably answered somewhere but I believe we shouldn’t need the President’s approval on matters like these but I sure am glad we got it.

Then there is the fact that Starlink only gets to come here through a partnership with IMC Communications. We don’t know just how Starlink ended up partnering IMC. Were they required to find a local partner and they settled on IMC or were they told they had to partner IMC to get the license?

Seeing as IMC was not a household name, I do not think Starlink settled on IMC of their own accord. This is me speculating, but I believe Dandemutande was the frontrunner to partner Starlink but that was hijacked. Dandemutande, through their COO, did announce in December 2023 that they would be partnering with Starlink,

In fact, for the record, we have signed an agreement with Starlink to be able to resell their services in the country. So, in addition to what we currently extend to the market. In the event that someone prefers to be on the Starlink service, we will be able to extend that through that partnership.

IMC Communications

There are speculations that Wickness Chivhayo is the man behind IMC. This is still pure speculation at this point and I haven’t seen any evidence or pseudo-evidence. It doesn’t matter though.

Whether its Chivhayo or not is irrelevant, in either case it does appear that IMC, which was unknown before this, is somewhat connected to the ruling elite. We could be mistaken on this but we can’t deny that it appears so.

Checking out the IMC website shows that it is still being repurposed to function as a Zimbabwean company’s website. You will find a Samora Machel address and a TelOne number but you will also find that IMC apparently has 30+ years of experience.

IMC says it’s “Zimbabwes’s first and Low Earth Orbit Internet Service Provider Buy”. I took that statement as it is on their website. There are place holder blog posts on the site that spout gibberish. Here’s an excerpt from a post titled “The Whimsically Named Egg Canvas Brainch,

…Chip shop bonnet barney owt to do with me what a plonker hotpot loo that gormless off his nut a blinding shot Harry give us a bell, don’t get shirty with me daft codswallop geeza up the duff zonked I tinkety tonk old fruit bog-standard spiffing good time Richard…

There is a lot more on this website to suggest that it was hurriedly constructed to be up in time for today’s announcement. Some links are broken, the best example being that if you try to click on their services links, you know, to learn more about their ‘broadband’ or ‘satellite tv’ options, you get “Hello WPHix”.

WPHix appears to be a collection of HTML and WordPress templates. The IMC website was hurried, my friend, some stuff was edited as I was checking the website out. Which further supports the suspicion that whoever is behind IMC got this deal through favoritism—unearned favouritism.

Starlink is here

The biggest news from all this is that Starlink is officially able to operate in Zimbabwe. IMC says the Starlink kit will cost $650 and you will pay $38 a month for 50Mbps, $45 for 100Mbps and $85 for 1000Mbps. We shall see what’s next in the near future. TECHZIM.COM

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