Gaining a Loss in The Kwese TV Licence Saga

By Trymore Muhlanga

There seems to be no easy way of describing the sequence of emotions that the average Zimbabwean may have gone through in the past 48 hours, particularly in relation to the Kwese TV saga: initially, it would appear that most progressive ordinary Zimbabweans greeted news that Kwese TV had finally been licensed with joy.

I’m sure a lot of Zimbabweans were already working out how to juggle between DStv and Kwese TV, calculating how much would be required as an initial outlay towards acquisition of the Kwese TV decoder and ‘dish’, and analyzing the content of the Kwese TV bouquet in comparison to the DStv bouquets.

Hardly 24 hours after this initial jubilation, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) then decided to “set the record straight”, and advised us all that contrary to market intelligence, Kwese TV did not hold a valid licence, and advising further that we were therefore not being encouraged to invest in an unlicensed venture.

Naturally, most people were dismayed, with some even going to the extent of venting their anger through emotionally-charged and insulting comments online. Can’t help noting however, that the way state media is reporting on this issue, it’s as if they’re celebrating the so-called absence of a valid licence for Kwese TV.

A casual observer is left wondering what exactly this means? Consider the following:

The Indigenisation & Local Empowerment Perspective

  1. Government preaches Indigenisation & Local Empowerment. Very noble idea that! Yet here we have Kwese TV, brainchild of our very native Strive Masiyiwa, which hasn’t managed to acquire a broadcasting licence for quite some time. Policy Inconsistency?

Competition is Healthy!

  1. DStv is foreign, yet is monopolising the digital satellite TV space in Zimbabwe. Kwese TV, a local business, would give the much-needed competition for sanity in the sector. Competition is healthy, & DStv lately has been taking us for granted. Zimbabweans will not forget in a hurry how, not so long ago, we used to pay US$55 for the Compact + Sports bouquet, but still had to go watch some Barclays Premier League (BPL) and La Liga matches in Sports Bars, because Compact + Sports wasn’t showing them.

    We wondered then, if our service provider was not aware that when most Zimbabweans hear the word “Sport”, they think football, and when they think football, they think BPL, La Liga, and UEFAC Champions League. Meanwhile, the Compact bouquet in South Africa was priced at ZAR320, which was about US$25, and was showing Supersport 3, BPL! This is how a lot of Zimbabweans started subscribing their DStv from South Africa, being the arbitragers that Zimbabweans are.

A Local Company, Not Represented At Home?

  1. Kwese TV could easily have launched its operations from Zimbabwe, but alas, they’ve seemingly been frustrated at every turn, & currently have some presence in 20 or so countries, except Zimbabwe, their home. The fact that they had to use countries like Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda as their launchpad speaks volumes about how they’ve been treated back home. Strive Masiyiwa posted about the then imminent launch of Kwese TV, on Facebook, some time in December 2015, almost 2 years ago.

The Jobs Being Exported

  1. Kwese TV would create “real jobs” for Zimbabweans, as opposed to the “if-I-give-you-a-task-to-wash-my-clothing-I’ve-created-a-job-for-you” kind of 2.2 million jobs that Hon. Psychology wanted us to clap hands for. Imagine the number of jobs being exported to other countries where Kwese TV has met with a better reception.

The Forex Shortages Dimension 

  1. In the Mid-Term Monetary Policy Review Statement, the Governor noted that part of the reason we’re having foreign currency challenges is because lots of US Dollars are going towards unproductive payments, e.g. DStv payments. Agreed 175%, that’s a no-brainer actually. Furthermore, currently viewers are having lots of challenges paying for their DStv subscriptions due to unavailability of cash; bond and US Dollar alike. Kwese TV would help alleviate some of these challenges: no payment hassles.

The Econet Factor

  1. Econet Zimbabwe, parent company of Econet Media, which is now bringing us Kwese TV, had a protracted struggle with Government to set up shop in telecoms. A case of history repeating itself? Thousands of people worldwide now owe their employment to Econet: the figure goes to millions if we then do a short Value Chain Analysis for Econet-including all those airtime vendors, who by our definition of employment, are gainfully employed and not actively seeking a job (never mind that there’s nowhere to look, even if they wanted to look).

 

Very Little By Way of Options for Local Viewers

  1. Aside from DStv, locals are bereft of options: very few people, if any, willingly watch ZBC TV and/or depend solely on ZBC News: the local broadcaster has kind of lost touch with its viewership. Gone are the days when we used to watch the BPL, Champions League, soap operas like Santa Barbara, Miami Sands etc, and even the likes of Family Matters, Fresh Prince, Walker Texas Ranger, etc. Even the local stuff was excellent, we all fondly remember Mukadota, Paraffin, Mutiro, Gringo, Ezomgido et al. Nowadays, lots of people do not even know how to get hold of ZBC TV.

FDI Elusive, Embrace Local!

  1. As an economy, we’ve dismally failed to attract any meaningful Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), in large part due to policy inconsistencies and the lack of policy clarity, ironically mostly around the Indigenisation Act. Whereas, according to the 2017 World Investment Report, published by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in June 2017, out of the estimated US$59 billion FDI inflows into Africa, we only managed to attract US$319 million in 2016, Mozambique attracted US$3.1 billion, South Africa US$2.3 billion, & Angola US$20 billion! And yet, we’re here seemingly frustrating the much-needed local investment.

So, if one may humbly ask: what’s there to celebrate? It’s of course to be expected that, after a while of going back and forth between Econet Media, BAZ et al, Kwese TV will eventually be licensed, nevertheless, one wonders why the processes should take that long, particularly at a time when as an economy we’ve been talking about the Ease of Doing Business Reforms, in a bid to attract the elusive FDI. There’s no easy way of justifying the mediocrity and inefficiency that results in us requiring close on 100 days to register a new business, whereas countries like Switzerland can do it in half a day! It becomes worse if the investor is actually an indigenous businessman, the species that we’d like to breed. Perhaps there’s more to the whole issue that an expert in the broadcasting field would understand, but that a casual observer would miss, by virtue of being a layman? One hopes there is a plausible explanation to allay one’s fears, amid indications that Econet has since suspended Kwese TV, following the BAZ rebuff.