The cost of telecommunications in Zimbabwe is still high relative to regional peers, but local budding enterprise, Ecotracker Africa, has moved in with a $1 million investment that seeks to make voice calls affordable.
The firm has launched an application that enables subscribers from across the globe to make international calls at affordable tariffs as it moves to enhance the ease of communication.
The application, Taura, was officially launched in South Africa a fortnight ago and already has over 3 000 subscribers, mainly Zimbabweans across the globe.
Ecotracker chief executive officer Clyde Makusha, said the company was anticipating to spread its wings across Africa with another launch expected in Nigeria before end of August this year.
By year end, the telecommunications firm should have its presence in an additional five African countries including Ethiopia, while also targeting to increase subscribers to over two million.
In two years it should have a subscriber base of over five million as the market continues to look for cheaper options and value for money, said the developers.
The application administrators are able to track the location of subscribers when they make payments for downloads.
Makusha said the application allows calls to be made from a smart phone to the basic mobile phone or landline. The idea is to make communication easier even where internet services are limited like in rural areas.
Unlike other internet-based calls such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype calls that have grown popular as they are cheaper but requires internet service, Taura calls can be made to a standard mobile handset or fixed network.
“We developed Taura this year to make communication especially by Zimbabweans and their relatives back home much easier and affordable.
“One needs to download the application and can make calls to any phone anywhere, including landlines. We especially want to make it easier for people to communicate with their families especially in rural areas who have no access to internet based calls such as Whatsapp calling,” he said via telephone.
According to telecoms regulator, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), the mobile networks as well as the fixed network have been experiencing a decline in voice traffic.
According to the 2017 sector report, total voice traffic declined by 5,7 percent to record 4 400 994 563 minutes from 4 666 909 037 minutes recorded in 2016.
Voice traffic has been declining since 2014 as it has been affected by the declining consumer demand for traditional voice because of the proliferation of cheaper over-the-top alternatives.
The traffic categories that have been mostly affected are International incoming and international outgoing voice traffic.
International traffic is a major source of foreign currency for the telecommunications sector as Zimbabwe has always been a net-receiver of international traffic and revenues.
The huge decline in international incoming traffic volumes has a negative impact on the foreign currency earnings by the sector. According to POTRAZ international incoming traffic declined by 60 percent to 183 192 610 minutes in 2017 from 2011 figures of 458 309 683 minutes.
With Taura app, Makusha said more subscribers will turn to it as the cheaper option as calls can be made from smart phone to any number, using cheaper rates.
“The difference between our app and the likes of Facebook and Whatsapp is that you can call from our application to any Zimbabwe landline number, or call someone who is not on the app and is using a standard phone,” he said.
Ecotracker, now has a staff compliment of 100 in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Taura is not the first project the firm has developed.
“We developed a software for our sister company Clyna Trading for parking in Chitungwiza, Chinhoyi and Karoi,” said Makusha adding more Government support was needed to grow the ICT sector especially innovations by local entrepreneurs.
He said this would be essential for the country to have its own ICT products and services developed by indigenous Zimbabweans, taking a leaf from other countries like China.