Zimbabwe approves licensing of Musk's Starlink internet service

A street vendor adjusts the internet settings on a customer's mobile phone in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 13, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File photo

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's telecom regulator has approved the licensing of Elon Musk's Starlink, allowing the satellite unit of SpaceX to operate in the southern African country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Saturday.

The decision "is expected to result in the deployment of high speed, low cost, LEO (low-Earth-orbit) internet infrastructure throughout Zimbabwe and particularly in all the rural areas," Mnangagwa said in a statement.

He said Starlink will provide services through its sole and exclusive local partner, IMC Communications.

A World Bank report in 2021 said only 34.8% of Zimbabwe's population had access to the internet.

The country's internet service is dominated by three major mobile network operators.

The Starlink approval comes amid a government crackdown on unregistered users smuggling Starlink kits from neighbouring countries like Zambia.

Starlink is currently officially offered in various African nations, including Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi.

Last month, Cameroon ordered the seizure of Starlink equipment at the country's ports of entry as the provider was not licensed.

(Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Additional reporting by Amindeh Blaise Atabong in Yaounde; Editing by Nqobile Dludla)

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