Harare — Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless, the country’s largest mobile operator, has asked its suppliers to consider cutting prices by at least 20% from May 1 due to the harsh economic environment that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The harsh economic environment and the compounded effect of the Covid-19 pandemic have necessitated an urgent review of our business operations,” Econet Wireless Zimbabwe said in a letter dated April 20, obtained by Bloomberg and confirmed by its CEO Douglas Mboweni.
“We therefore need to take drastic measures now to safeguard the business and ensure we remain viable so we are able to to continue offering our services to our customers and retain our suppliers,” the company said in the letter.
Besides Econet Wireless, the country has two other mobile operators that are both owned by the government. Zimbabwe’s economy is experiencing its worst economic recession in more than a decade, characterised by a shortage of foreign currency, high unemployment and food shortages.
This week, Strive Masiyiwa, the company’s founder, launched an appeal for help for Sudan and Zimbabwe to fight the coronavirus pandemic, after sanctions imposed on the countries cut them off from aid from multilateral organisations.
He said he had no personal contact with the leaders of Sudan and Zimbabwe before lodging the appeal with the institutions to raise funds for buying personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, and to pay for salaries and training. The two nations, under US sanctions, are excluded from debt relief.
“While I don’t want to get into the issues around how and why there are sanctions, everyone knows that I personally had to flee my country, Zimbabwe, because of persecution 20 years ago,” Masiyiwa said in a statement. “I have not been back since. For the avoidance of doubt, this is not an appeal for the lifting of sanctions.”
The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral institutions should create humanitarian trusts for each country, which are managed by third parties, Masiyiwa said.
Sudan has, in the past, been accused by the US of sponsoring terrorism while Zimbabwe was sanctioned in the early 2000s amid accusations of state-sponsored human rights abuses and irregular elections. Zimbabwe’s economy has since collapsed.
Masiyiwa’s Higherlife Foundation, which he founded with his wife, Tsitsi, pays for the education of thousands of children in Zimbabwe and other African countries. He has also paid healthworkers in Zimbabwe when the government ran out of money.