First universal services subsidies made available after decade delay

8 Dec 2009

AllAfrica reports that for the first time in more than ten years, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has availed USD5 million from a pool of operators’ contributions to the Universal Services Fund (USF) to be used for network expansion in underserved areas. Operators have not received funds for projects from their joint contributions since the creation of the USF in 1998, according to the report, despite handing over 2% of their gross annual revenues for the past decade. Alfred Marisa, POTRAZ acting director general, confirmed the availability of the money, whilst some operators have already received approval for their USF expansion plans from the Ministry of Information Communication Technologies. Marisa revealed that the funds became available between February and October 2009 following the dollarisation of Zimbabwe’s economy. POTRAZ began consulting with operators in May 2009 to identify underserved areas and their findings gained ministerial approval in early November, he said. Another current priority for the government is to complete a project to deploy fibre-optic infrastructure linking all areas on the routes between the capital Harare, Mutare and Beitbridge.