Zimbabwe - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country with a well-developed road network that was comprised in 1996 of 18,338 kilometers (11,395 miles) of roads, of which 8,692 (5,401 miles) are paved. The closest seaport is Beira in Mozambique.

Zimbabwe has a direct railway link with Zambia, which connects it to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam through the Tazara railway. The railway system also connects Zimbabwe to the Mozambican ports of Beira and Maputo as well as 2 South African ports. It comprises 2,759 kilometers (1,714 miles) of track, of which 313 kilometers (194 miles) is electrified. Another link is planned between Beitbridge and Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), which operates the rail service, is under reform in preparation for privatization .

Zimbabwe has 2 state-controlled airlines—the passenger carrier Air Zimbabwe and freight carrier Affretair—which are experiencing financial difficulties resulting from poor management and political interference.This has enabled a private company, Zimbabwe Express Airlines, to emerge and capture a substantial share of the market. A new international airport is being built at Harare.

Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has the sole responsibility for power generation and distribution. The search for national energy self-sufficiency in the early 1980s led to an emphasis on coal and other thermoelectric projects (78 percent of supply) and the hydroelectric power from the Kariba dam (22 percent). Although the second stage of the Hwange thermal power station, commissioned in 1987, raised the total capacity to 2,071 megawatts (mw), supply has failed to keep up with demand, leading to imports from Mozambique and South Africa. All oil and gas is imported. A pipeline from Port Beira in Mozambique to Mutare which was built before the 1965 declaration of independence did not become operational until 1982, and was extended to Harare only in 1993. Ethanol, produced since 1980 from sugarcane, is blended with gasoline for domestic sale. Imports of fuel are monopolized by the National Oil Corporation of Zimbabwe (Noczim), which has been mired in scandals and run at a loss for several years, partly due to lack of authority to raise prices in line with the depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar.

Zimbabwe's domestic communication system consists of microwave radio relay links, land lines, radiotelephone communication stations, fixed wireless local loop installations, and a substantial mobile cellular phone network. Internet connection is available in Harare and planned for all major towns and for some of the smaller ones. International communication is through satellite earth stations including 2 Intelsat and 2 international digital gateway exchanges (in Harare and Gweru).

Zimbabwe's telephone system was once one of the best in Africa, but now suffers from poor maintenance with more than 100,000 outstanding requests for connection despite an equally large number of installed but unused lines. The Posts and Telecommunications Corporation

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Zimbabwe 19 93 30 N/A 4 N/A 9.0 1.19 20
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
South Africa 32 317 125 N/A 56 3.5 47.4 33.36 1,820
Dem. Rep. of Congo 3 375 135 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 1
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

(PTC), despite investing heavily in the digitization of its network using fiber-optic technology, has failed to satisfy demand. By 1997 there were 212,000 telephone lines in use. In addition, there are about 20,000 fixed telephones with wireless local loop connections. There were 70,000 mobile cellular phones in 1999. The PTC has since lost its monopoly rights to cellular phone operators such as Eocene, which won the right to establish a cellular phone network in 1997 after more than 4 years of legal battles.

Zimbabwe has a well-diversified media. The press is relatively free but dominated by the state-controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers, which operates 2 dailies, the Herald and Bulawayo Chronicles, as well as their sister papers, the Sunday Mail and the Sunday News. Since 1999, when the Daily News, backed by investors from the United Kingdom and South Africa, was launched, the market share of Zimbabwe Newspapers has been significantly reduced. Other independent papers include weeklies such as the Financial Gazette, the Zimbabwe Independent, and the Standard, which mainly serve as opposition voices and are highly critical of the government. A number of monthlies including Motto, Horizon, and Parade are estimated to have a readership approaching 1 million each.

Radio and television are run by the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), but variety is provided by channels from South Africa. In 1998, however, journalists critical of the government were removed and the state-controlled media have since largely provided government propaganda. In the wake of the outbreak of the land-reform crisis, which the independent media blamed on the government for instigating in the run-up to the 2000 elections, the government has announced plans to curtail the rights of the independent press.

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