Tanzanian mobile network operators to support digital economy initiatives for extension of broadband services

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With a bold ambition to achieve 80% broadband penetration by 2025, the government with support from the World Bank has embarked on a project dubbed Digital Tanzania in partnership with mobile network operators that will see the extension of broadband services to 713 wards which translates to 1,407 villages and benefit over 8.5 million Tanzanians across the country upon its completion.   

Officiating the signing ceremony at the country’s capital of Dodoma, H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania commended the various ongoing partnerships between public institutions and private organizations (PPPs) in successfully implementing strategic development projects that benefit Tanzanians.

“Today we have witnessed a historic event that will see all 26 regions across Tanzania’s mainland reached with quality and reliable telecommunication services compared to Zanzibar which was wholly covered in November 2022. The presence of services is of great significance not only in rural areas but also in town areas as it accelerates development and inclusion politically, socially, and economically as well as for the safety and security of the nation. The implementation of this project is in line with the government’s commitment to improve telecommunication services and facilitate youth with opportunities in the ICT sector,” explained H.E. President Suluhu.

President Suluhu acknowledged the initiative as it is going to further grow businesses in rural areas as the farmers now will have information at their fingertips and expand markets for their products. She also noted the government is going to change and expand the usage of feature phones to smartphones given the availability and assurance of quality communication services. Another area that is going to be significantly impacted is the health sector specifically telemedicine. In particular, she pointed out and commended the excellent implementation of the m-mama program in partnership with the Vodacom Tanzania Foundation which has remarkably decreased the maternal mortality rate across Tanzania.

On his part, Vodacom Tanzania Plc’s Managing Director, Mr. Philip Besiimire when asked about the essence of the partnership linked it with the company’s vision to lead Tanzania to the digital age and change lives through technology, stressing that through innovation and community-driven insights, they have been able to come up with products and services that touch on key socio-economic sectors such as health, education, agriculture, and mobile financial services.

Echoing the President’s remarks Mr. Besiimire explained that in a country where three-quarters of the country’s workforce works in the agriculture sector and most of them reside in rural Tanzania, their innovative solutions have accelerated farmers’ registration on their M-Kulima platform reaching over 3.1 million farmers. They’ve gone further to distribute proceeds worth north of TZS4 billion to the enrolled farmers via M-Pesa in the last year, which provided ease, security, and speedy distribution. M-Kulima is designed to provide farmers with digital agricultural services including cashless electronic payments, market information, and weather forecasts, all delivered through mobile devices, and through their latest partnership with UCSAF, more farmers will benefit from such services.

Speaking of their network investment he said “Over the years we have built thousands of sites across the country out of which 3,429 are 2G sites; 3,066 are 3G; 2,315 are 4G and last year we introduced the country’s first 5G network whereas to date we have built 231 sites in Tanzania’s mainland and Zanzibar, connecting Tanzanians, and reaching a broadband coverage of 93% of the population. We continue to strengthen our network by widening our broadband coverage and modernizing our 2G sites to meet modern world demands,” explained Mr. Besiimire.

Through our partnership with the government through UCSAF, Vodacom has reached Tanzanians who would otherwise remain unconnected. We have built 296 sites, reaching close to 300 wards, and connected over 3.6 million Tanzanians to mobile services such as voice, data, and M-Pesa.

Mr. Besiimire emphasized the impact of network availability in driving digital transformation, noting the company’s network leadership has enabled them to transform communities, create jobs through direct and indirect employment, and advance solutions in health and education working closely with the government in various regions of the country.

“To pick one example, we transformed the lives of the villagers in Mundarara, a mining town in Longido district, Arusha region, where communication infrastructure was absent. It was achieved through facilitating access to GSM services, broadband, and M-Pesa services thus driving financial inclusion through access to not only peer-to-peer (P2P) services but also savings, loans, and other life-changing opportunities,” concluded Mr. Besiimire.

With Vodacom Tanzania allocated 190 wards through the Digital Tanzania partnership, the company will extend its reach to approximately 4.1 million people which is equivalent to 3.7% of Vodacom’s network coverage. By the completion of this project, Vodacom will have reached 525 wards, getting 8,179,367 Tanzanians connected and exposed to the wide array of their products and services, allowing them to participate in the digital economy.

Vodacom Tanzania PLC has been a key stakeholder in the usage of National ICT broadband backbone (NICTBB infrastructure since 2012, with capacity leasing contracts worth over USD 60 million in the past years. This has helped the extension of internet accessibility, where more people can access digital facilities, such as health services, education delivery, and agricultural information as well as furthering the growth of financial inclusion nationally.