The new battleground for Zim telcos

The battle for market share in Zimbabwe's mobile telecommunications industry is heating up and has assumed a new frontier - retail outlets.

Zimbabwe has three mobile companies – Telecel Zimbabwe, Econet Wireless and state controlled NetOne – that are battling for increased market share in a country with 13 million people.

Econet is the market leader with 9 million subscribers followed by NetOne, with about 3 million, and Telecel Zimbabwe with approximately 2.5 million.

Although experts say the mobile market in Zimbabwe is nearing saturation, it appears though that the telcos are fighting hard to gain more customers through enhanced visibility and significance.

Econet, NetOne and Telecel are boosting the presence of branded retail outlets that offer support service, mobile money transactions and accessories such as mobile phones, mobile lines, support and backup.

Telecel Zimbabwe said on Tuesday that it has nearly doubled its outlets and kiosks to 200.

The corporate shops and kiosks run by Zimbabwean telcos also offer employment opportunities for the country's entrepreneurs.

"The kiosks are expected to markedly improve convenience and ease of service provision on Telecash especially on cash-ins and cash-outs as they will increase availability of agents in all areas for customers needing the services," the company said.

Nkosinathi Ncube, the commercial director for Telecel Zimbabwe, said the company's strategy to deploy "franchise shops and kiosks is on course" after the company "more than doubled the number of kiosks to a total of 200 kiosks".

The telecom kiosks and outlets are now a common feature in Zimbabwean cities and towns and have eased off hurdles associated with distribution of airtime top up cards to vendors.

"These kiosks are empowering local business people by making them part of our business ecosystem. Entrepreneurship has become even more important than ever before because our current economic environment is characterised by a shrinking formal job market. These kiosks will help create jobs and provide income streams which are needed to improve people's lives.

Telecel views these kiosks as income and job creation opportunities," said Ncube.