Telecommunication companies have been challenged to be innovative and development orientated by starting to locally produce technological components and gadgets they require so as to reduce their foreign currency requirements, Information Communication Technology and Courier Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere, said on Wednesday.
Minister Muswere was giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on ICT on the status of telecommunication companies regarding access to foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe foreign currency auction system.
"The foreign currency requirements of these companies is so huge that it cannot fully be obtained through the auction system," he said.
"It is against this background that as Government, we are encouraging telecommunication companies to be innovative and start manufacturing some of the components they require in order to reduce the foreign currency amounts they require."
Minister Muswere said telecommunications companies have been participating on the auction system for reasons that include servicing of foreign debt, procurement of equipment and software and settlement of international obligations such as termination fees and bandwidth procurement.
The operators had requested the prioritisation of allocation of foreign currency to the telecommunications industry.
Minister Muswere said to date, those operators that met the requirements, had got allocations.
NetOne has received US$1,9 million from the first quarter, which it used to service a long outstanding US$40,7 million China Exim bank debt dating back to 2017.
Presently, NetOne requires US$13,8 million to roll-out various capital projects earmarked to improve operational efficiency and cut costs.
The proposed projects include a billing system, hybrid solar systems for sub-stations and remote sitting monitoring system.
Econet has received US$1,7 million it used to settle international debts and upgrading capacity.
To date, it requires US$131,7 million to settle international obligations, operational support and core network upgrade.
Powertel got US$309 628 which it used to pay ZTE in respect of outstanding obligations for equipment supplied. Presently, it is soliciting for over US$61,9 million for projects, chief among them backbone expansion.
Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director general, Dr Gift Machengete, said the importance of ICTs in empowering citizens and bettering the lives of citizens could not be overemphasised.
"It goes without saying that ICTs are crucial in empowering people as well as improving business efficiency and profitability. Access to ICTs and effective participation in the digital economy is also critical in improving the quality of life for all," he said.
Dr Machengete said telecommunications operators needed heavy capital investments in order to remain relevant.