Picture: Elise Amendola / AP
The rollout of 5th generation mobile networks or wireless systems, commonly known as 5G, is proving a divisive issue in Zimbabwe with entrepreneurs advocating for the country to move in line with the rest of the world ahead of deployment but government expressing unwillingness.

5G is the proposed next telecommunications standard beyond the current 4G. It aims at higher capacity, allowing a higher density of mobile broadband users, and supporting device-to-device, ultra-reliable, and massive machine communications.

The next step in 5G technology development involving trials is under way, with planned commercial deployment in 2022.

However, entrepreneurs and tech-savvy citizens expressed concern Zimbabwe was lagging, which would hinder an already battered economy.

About 85 percent of Zimbabwe’s major companies have shut down over the years as a result of the controversial economic policies of President Robert Mugabe’s government. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate stands at an estimated 91.5percent.

With the telecommunications sector earmarked to reverse the downslide, local IT vendors, entrepreneurs and experts are advocating for the government to consider 5G in order to boost their participation in the economy.

With massive job cuts, the country has been turned into an economy of entrepreneurs with a majority preferring to start their own projects over seeking employment.

“We need 5G to increase the speed of broadband,” said Nowell Mafusire, an IT vendor based in the affluent Borrowdale in Harare.

“Indeed, the majority of people based in rural areas have no smartphones but that must not be a stumbling block to having 5G. We desperately require 5G in order to help us compete with our peers globally,” he added.

He was reacting to government’s unwillingness on the deployment.

Echoing similar sentiments, Highfields-based tech entrepreneur Shadreck Mukurazhizha said 5G would be handy in turning around Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes.

ICT and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira dismissed calls for the deployment of 5G as “too ambitious”.

“It’s a noble call to have 5G, but the country is not yet ready for that. We are not yet done with rolling out 4G due to a number of reasons, so, rushing to 5G will be overzealous,” Mandiwanzira said. - CAJ