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Zimbabwe's new administration also has issues with social media

Zimbabwe's new administration also has issues with social media

While ICT industry experts have urged the country to leverage the sector to accelerate economic growth, the state police and military, under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, continue to express reservation over social media.

Former leader Robert Mugabe had established a Cyber Security Ministry in a move seen as aimed at curtailing cyber freedoms. Mnangagwa has since abolished the ministry and placed it under the ICT Ministry.

However, this week, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said: "Some malicious individuals are abusing the social media to generate and circulate inflammatory content that potentially causes unnecessary alarm and despondency within the Defence and Security Services with the ultimate objective of disturbing the prevailing peace and stability in the country."

Industry analysts believe this signals potential perpetuation of the State's discomfort with social media and investors may take a long-term view of the country's ICT sector and potential investment.

"The new leadership may be keen to distance to itself from any of the controversial policies of the previous rule, including the controversial clampdown on social media, which had left some critics sceptical about the real motives," said Lehlohonolo Mokenela, digital transformation analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Zimbabwe will require the right regulatory framework in-order to achieve this, he added.

The country recently abolished the indigenisation act which required foreign firms to cede 51% shares in local units into the hands of black Zimbabwean groups, although this has been retained for diamond and platinum mining companies.

"With the right regulatory environment, there is likely to be a lot more activity on social media, mobile money and the internet of things (IoT). ICT can be one of the platforms Zimbabwe can leverage in order to accelerate its economic growth; for example, making broadband services much more affordable to drive innovation," explained Mokonela.

Zimbabwe's mobile penetration rate has soared to 100% according to a Q3 telecom industry report released this month by the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), and its internet penetration rate stands at 50% - which ICT industry operators believe presents a clear opportunity for investors.

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