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  • The Curious Case of Econet ZWL Airtime

    The Curious Case of Econet ZWL Airtime
  • Washington Mkombodzi
  • Staff Writer
  • Posted Mar 20, 2024
  • I recently encountered a puzzling situation when attempting to purchase Econet ZWL airtime. Despite having 50,000 ZWL in my bank account, which is equivalent to about 2 USD, I was surprised to find that the process to buy ZWL airtime failed. The current state of inflation in the country has led to significantly cheaper Econet ZWL call prices, as they have not been increased in line with the devaluation of the currency. With just 1,900 ZWL, one can enjoy 10 minutes of talk time. Naturally, with my 50,000 ZWL, I anticipated the ability to make numerous calls. However, it seems that Econet has made it challenging for subscribers to purchase ZWL airtime.

    In my attempts to transfer ZWL from my bank account to EcoCash, I faced continuous failures. Curious about others' experiences, I inquired if anyone had successfully purchased ZWL airtime, but to no avail. I decided to investigate further and checked if Econet was offering ZWL bundles, similar to their USD offerings. Dialing *143# and selecting ZWL, I was disappointed to find that the voice menu was empty, devoid of any ZWL bundles. This situation raises questions, suggesting that Econet may not want subscribers to buy ZWL airtime.

    The ZWL currency poses challenges for businesses due to rapid inflation and devaluation. Currently, the black rate stands at 22,000 ZWL to 1 USD, while the official rate is 19,000 ZWL to 1 USD. In the past, many subscribers seized the opportunity to exchange USD for ZWL and purchase data and airtime at lower prices. Econet, aware of this trend, struggled to adjust their prices in line with inflation. To mitigate the situation, Econet convinced the government to allow them to sell airtime and bundles in USD. 

    However, Econet cannot change prices arbitrarily; they require approval from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), which can be a lengthy process. Since the last adjustment to ZWL prices, the value of the currency has significantly depreciated, yet Econet has not received approval to change their ZWL prices. Consequently, they have inadvertently made it difficult for customers to purchase ZWL airtime from banks and other outlets. This raises concerns about fairness for consumers who are paid in ZWL currency.

    In contrast, USD airtime is readily available and offers a variety of appealing bundles. By dialing *143# and selecting USD bundles, customers can access an array of options. For example, there is a voice daily bundle priced at 20 cents that provides 10 minutes of talk time. It would be beneficial if Econet made it possible to purchase these bundles in ZWL at the official exchange rate. Currently, the difference between the official retail price and the black market rate is minimal. 

    In conclusion, the curious case of Econet ZWL airtime presents challenges and discrepancies for Zimbabwean consumers. The availability and affordability of USD airtime and bundles contrast sharply with the difficulty and unavailability of ZWL options. As a multicurrency country, it would be beneficial for Econet to ensure that ZWL airtime can be purchased at the official exchange rate, providing a fair and accessible option for those paid in ZWL currency.

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