Connect with us

Business

Internet access a challenge for rural population. Zimbabweans too are facing it

Internet access a challenge for rural population. Zimbabweans too are facing it

Published

on

Internet access a challenge for rural population. Zimbabweans too are facing it

As the sun sets over Zimbabwe’s Matobo Hills, boys throw stones to chase baboons away. Their goal isn’t to enjoy the view of dusk but to search for a mobile network without interference from wild animals.

Silozwe, a village less than 50 kilometres from the southern city of Bulawayo, the southern African country’s second largest, sits in a connectivity black hole.

To an outsider, the daily stream of villagers clambering up the hill might look like a pilgrimage to a rain-making ceremony, but it’s a communal trek to make phone calls, send messages and check social media.

“Grown up as I am, it’s hard for me to get up the hill, and sometimes I still fail to connect,” said Sakhile Sibindi, 60, a grandmother who walks five kilometres to reach the spot from her home.

Advertisement

Rural connectivity issues are not unique to Zimbabwe.

About a third of the world’s population, or 2.6 billion people, do not have internet access, according to the United Nations, which has a target to get everyone online by 2030.

“The internet is an essential tool to access information, employment opportunities and education. People without meaningful access may be left behind,” the UN’s International Telecommunication Union said in a 2023 report.

In sub-Saharan Africa, about one in four people use mobile phones to get online – but 15 per cent of the population live in areas with no coverage, according to GSMA, a telecom industry group.

Read more: Companies trying to attract more smartphone users across Africa. But there are risks

Advertisement

The Matobo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its distinctive rock boulders, provide some relief to Silozwe’s residents.

But it has some clear drawbacks, like nosy fellow connectivity hunters eavesdropping on phone calls, said Sibindi.

“If you get the connection, you don’t have privacy,” she said after stopping there on her way back from a routine health check.

“Sensitive family issues end up being known by the whole village.”

Accessibility is also an issue.

Advertisement

“If someone gets sick at night, you cannot come here to make a phone call. If it’s death, you will stay with a corpse in your house because you cannot reach out for help,” said Sibindi.

Some local residents have found ingenious workarounds.

Mobile phones attached to sticks in yards or strapped on tree branches in a desperate search for network coverage are a common sight.

Anna Tiyo, a 42-year-old whose husband works in South Africa, used an old metal barrel to set up a makeshift network station under a fortuitously discovered, well-connected tree.

“One day, I got tired of walking in the sun across the field, so I sat here under this tree, watching some videos on my smartphone,” she said. “WhatsApp messages started coming in, and that’s how I found this network spot.”

Advertisement

Others ask bus drivers and shopkeepers to deliver written or oral messages for them.

Living in an offline area can be costly for those trying to do business, in a country with high poverty and unemployment rates.
Bukhosibethu Moyo, a 29-year-old building contractor, said coverage gaps cost him clients and money, as he can’t take calls or mobile payments.

“Most of my clients say they fail to reach me for several days,” he said. “They end up hiring people from the city who are readily available online.”

Mobile penetration is over 97pc in Zimbabwe, and there are more than 14.5 million active subscriptions in a country of 16 million people, according to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

But the government has acknowledged that connectivity is problematic in rural areas.

Advertisement

It has promised investments and recently launched a programme to equip rural schools with computers.

“We now have a state-of-the-art optic fibre network, a National ICT policy, and a Smart Zimbabwe Master Plan,” communication minister Tatenda Mavetera wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in March.

“These initiatives will transform Zimbabwe into a digital powerhouse, boost our economy, improve our lives, and connect us to the world.”

But progress has been slow, leaving many villagers feeling neglected.

“We are part of this country and deserve access to the same opportunities as those in urban areas,” said Tiyo.

Advertisement

The ministry of communication did not reply to a request for comment.

Business

Oil market likely to be in surplus next year, Morgan Stanley says

Oil market likely to be in surplus next year, Morgan Stanley says

Published

on

By

Oil market likely to be in surplus next year, Morgan Stanley says

The crude oil market is currently tight but next year will likely be in surplus, with Brent prices declining into the mid-to-high $70s range, Morgan Stanley said.

The tightness will hold for most of the third quarter, the bank said in a note dated on Friday, but equilibrium will return by the fourth quarter, “when seasonal demand tailwinds abate and both OPEC and non-OPEC supply return to growth.”

Three sources told Reuters last week that OPEC+ is unlikely to recommend changing the group’s output policy at a mini-ministerial meeting next month, leaving in place a plan to start unwinding one layer of oil output cuts from October.

Morgan Stanley said it expects OPEC and non-OPEC supply to grow by about 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2025, well ahead of demand growth.

Advertisement

Refinery runs are set to reach a peak in August this year, and unlikely to return to that level until July 2025, it said.

Morgan Stanley left its forecast for Brent crude prices for the third quarter of 2024 unchanged at $86 per barrel. Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs also maintained its projection for the quarter at an average Brent price of $86 a barrel.

Brent crude prices on Monday were up 0.54% at $83.08 a barrel by 0535 GMT, and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up 0.54% at $80.56. 

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Business

Asia stocks skid as China trims rates; Biden steps aside

Asia stocks skid as China trims rates; Biden steps aside

Published

on

By

Asia stocks skid as China trims rates; Biden steps aside

Asian shares slid anew on Monday, getting little lift from a surprise rate cut by China’s central bank, while Wall Street futures firmed in the wake of President Joe Biden’s decision to bow out of the election race.

The People’s Bank of China cut short-term rates by 10 basis points, which pulled down long-term borrowing costs and bond yields. The move follows Beijing’s release of a policy document on Sunday outlining its ambitions for the economy.

Investors seemed underwhelmed with the move, in part as it only emphasised how weak the economy was, and Chinese blue chips slipped 0.9% along with the yuan.

“Basically all the fundamental factors point to the fact that China needs a lower rate environment, especially the real rate is really high…in this kind of disinflationary environment,” said Gary Ng, Asia-Pacific senior economist at Natixis in Hong Kong.

Advertisement

“I think the general trend is that it’s pretty much in line with the fact that the economy is not that great, and it seems that there’s a bit of urgency from the authorities to stimulate it now.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost another 0.7%, having shed 3% last week.

Japan’s Nikkei dropped 1.2% and South Korea’s benchmark index fell 1.3%. Taiwan was having another tough session with a loss of 2.3% amid concerns about US restrictions on chip sales.

Investors seemed much better prepared for news President Biden would drop out of the election race and endorse Vice President Kamala Harris for the Democratic ticket.

Online betting site PredictIT showed pricing for a victory by Donald Trump had fallen 4 cents to 60 cents, while Harris climbed 12 cents to 39 cents. California governor Gavin Newsom, another possible Democratic challenger, trailed at 4 cents.

Advertisement

Markets took the news in their stride, with S&P 500 stock futures nudging up 0.1%, while Nasdaq futures added 0.2%. Futures for 10-year Treasuries rose 2 ticks, while 10-year bond yields dipped 2 basis point to 4.22%.

EUROSTOXX 50 futures added 0.5%, while FTSE futures firmed 0.4%.

“As Trump’s polling results have lifted, markets have favoured positions that anticipate more trade barriers and possibly higher inflation,” ANZ analysts said.

“Some polls have Harris performing better than Biden against Trump, and the Democrats will be hoping the next polls feature a Harris-driven bump.”

EYE ON EARNINGS

Advertisement

A packed week of corporate earnings will see Tesla and Google-parent Alphabet kick off the season for the “Magnificent Seven” megacap group of stocks.

Others reporting include General Electric, General Motors, Ford and Lockheed Martin.

The tech sector is projected to increase year-over-year earnings by 17%, while profit for the communication services sector is seen rising about 22%.

Such gains would outpace the 11% estimated rise for the S&P 500 overall, according to LSEG IBES.

Europe’s biggest banks also report this week, with eyes on whether the gains from higher interest rates have run out of steam and if recent political drama is weighing on sentiment.

Advertisement

A busy week for economic news will culminate with the Federal Reserve’s favoured inflation measure out on Friday. The core personal consumption expenditures index is seen rising 0.1% in June, pulling the annual pace down a tick to 2.5%.

Markets are wagering heavily that a benign outcome will firm the case for a September rate cut, which futures are pricing as a 97% chance.

Also due are figures for advance gross domestic product that are forecast to show growth picking up to an annualised 1.9% in the second quarter, from 1.4% in the first.

The closely watched Atlanta Fed GDPNow indicator points to growth of 2.7%, suggesting some risk to the upside.

The Bank of Canada meets on Wednesday and is considered almost certain to cut its rates by a quarter point to 4.5%.

Advertisement

In currency markets, the dollar gave back just a little of last week’s safe haven gains as the euro edged up 0.1% to $1.0886. The dollar was a fraction softer on the Japanese yen at 157.27.

In commodity markets, gold held at $2,406 an ounce and short of last week’s record high of $2,483.60.

Oil prices inched higher, with scant sign of progress on a ceasefire deal in Gaza as Israeli forces battled Palestinian fighters in the southern city of Rafah on Sunday.

Brent gained 44 cents to $83.07 a barrel, while US crude rose 41 cents to $80.54 per barrel.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Business

FinMin Aurangzeb set to visit China to reschedule $15 loans

FinMin Aurangzeb set to visit China to reschedule $15 loans

Published

on

By

FinMin Aurangzeb set to visit China to reschedule $15 loans

 In order to reschedul energy loans worth $15 billion, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is all set to visit China for three days tomorrow.

The minister will discuss the loan rescheduling with the Chinese authorities. The minister will also discuss China’s energy circular debts worth Rs500 billion.

Read more: Finance Minister Aurangzeb leads delegation to US for IMF talks on new bailout package

The minister will also discuss Panda Bonds during the visit to get the $30 million bonds in China.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © GLOBAL TIMES PAKISTAN