Diaspora Zimbabweans ditch phone calls for WhatsApp

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Harare – Zimbabweans living in South Africa are making fewer phone calls to friends and relatives back home as technologies such as WhatsApp take hold.

This is according to a report from the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) which said that over-the-top internet apps and services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook are increasingly becoming key communication tools for Zimbabwean expats.

Unofficial figures put the number of expat Zimbabweans settled in foreign countries at more than two million amid that country’s economic struggles since the 2000s.

“International incoming and outgoing traffic declined by 0.3% and 1.2% respectively,” Potraz said in its latest quarterly report on the Zimbabwean telecom industry’s performance released on Wednesday.

“This is attributed to the proliferation of alternative over-the-top (OTT) communication platforms such as Whatsapp and Viber,” added the Potraz report.

Subsequently, data usage in Zimbabwe has also been rising.

“Equipped international internet bandwidth increased by 2.6% to reach 31.310Mbps from 30.520Mbps,” said the Potraz report.

“Usage of mobile data and internet increased as evidenced by the 20.3% increase in mobile data utilisation to record 944,268,192MB from 785,058,782MB recorded in the previous quarter,” says the Potraz report.

In response to growing use of data and use of OTT services, mobile companies have also started running promotions for international calls in a bid to stir up traffic.

Local call traffic grows

Zimbabwe’s local call traffic, though, has been on the rise.

The total national voice traffic increased by 8.8% to record 1.3million minutes from 1.2million minutes recorded in the previous quarter owing to net-on-net promotions, said Potraz.

The rise in local call traffic came as the country’s three mobile operators NetOne, Econet Wireless and Telecel Zimbabwe launched call promotions during the period.