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Zimbabwe approves Starlink licensing

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The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has approved the licensing of Elon Musk's Starlink, allowing the satellite unit of SpaceX to operate in the southern African country.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on a social network post on X citing that the decision is expected to result in the deployment of high speed, low cost, LEO (low Earth orbit) Internet infrastructure throughout Zimbabwe and particularly in all the rural areas.

Mnangagwa said Starlink will operate through IMC Communications which will be the country's sole and exclusive local partner.

Starlink's approval comes two weeks after the Zanu PF's spokesperson's son, Neville Mutsvangwa, was arrested on charges of illegally possessing a Starlink terminal and violating the Postal and Telecommunications Act.

The use of Starlink has been illegal in Zimbabwe since January 2024, when POTRAZ reportedly announced plans to arrest individuals and businesses found distributing and advertising the devices. However, even with the ban, people in Zimbabwe continued to find new ways to use Starlink.

Following the regulator's directive, in April 2024, Starlink warned its Zimbabwean users that it would disable its roaming service.

Starlink's African movements

On the African continent, Starlink has made entry in several African countries including Benin, Nigeria, Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique as well as Zambia.

Starlink will operate through IMC Communications which will be Zimbabwe's sole and exclusive local partner.   (Source: Image by wirestock on Freepik.)
Starlink will operate through IMC Communications which will be Zimbabwe's sole and exclusive local partner.
(Source: Image by wirestock on Freepik.)

Furthermore, with Zimbabwe's announcement it seems that SpaceX's satellite Internet service is making progress on the continent.

Earlier this month Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi met with Starlink executives who expressed an interest in obtaining an operational license in the country.

However, even with Masisi's meeting, the satellite Internet service still doesn't have a license to operate in Botswana, South Africa and Cameroon.

Late in April, Cameroonian authorities reportedly banned the import of Starlink satellite Internet kits into the Central African country and started seizing the equipment at the border.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of April Ghana's National Communications Authority (NCA) approved Starlink's application to offer satellite broadband services in Ghana.

Even with such headwinds and sometimes pitfalls on the continent, South Africa remains a bone of contention where Starlink is concerned.

In February 2024, Starlink cut off hundreds of South African users over alleged trademark and copyright violations.

In November 2023, The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) had cautioned companies against importing and selling Starlink satellite Internet terminals in South Africa, calling the practice illegal and warned that fines could be imposed.

Related posts:

*Top image is of a Starlink satellite dish overlooking a mountain view. (Source: Starlink's website)

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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