A power outage and mobile money blackout expose the vulnerability of Zimbabwe’s economy

26 July 2019

Money Transfer

On Saturday morning (Jul. 20) local time Zimbabweans experienced a system blackout on Econet Wireless, the country’s biggest telecoms operator after a significant power outage.

Econet says the network challenges were caused by a fault that started when generators at its operations centre failed to kick in after a Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) power outage.

But a power cut to Econet’s servers is no mere outage. It is effectively a major disruption to an already troubled economy teetering on the edge as it means 70% of Zimbabweans had no phones, internet and crucially EcoCash mobile money services. More than 14 million subscribers were caught off guard. People were stuck in banking halls, fuel queues, supermarkets and commuters to various places were stranded.

And in what seems like a never-ending cycle of misery for ordinary Zimbabweans in the last year, it is likely there will be more power cuts and ultimately more economic disruption due to the country’s currency troubles and—now, climate change.

Zesa has recently introduced an 18-hour load shedding schedule in most parts of the country because Zimbabwe relies on hydroelectric power from Lake Kariba along the border with Zambia where ongoing drought means water levels have dropped so low it’s forcing reduced electricity production. Read the full article on Quartz here.