CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER’S OPERATIONS REVIEW
The “new normal” triggered by the Covid-19 induced lockdowns presented us with an opportunity to leverage our digital solutions and create a more sustainable future for businesses, schools, churches, hospitals, and all sectors of the economy as most operate remotely.
The operating environment remained volatile, mainly driven by inflation and exchange rates volatility. Whilst the exchange rate largely remained stable at about ZW$85 per US$1 for the greater part of 2021, alternative market exchange rate premiums exerted significant inflationary pressures on the economy.
The resurgence of inflationary pressures at the end of 2021 saw annual inflation closing the year at 60.1%, mainly as a result of the alternative exchange rates pass-through effect on domestic inflation.* Whilst the country’s month-on month inflation declined from 6.99% in February 2022 to 6.31% in March 2022, inflation escalated from 66.11% to 72.7% over the same period.
Globally, inflationary pressures have also escalated, worsened by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict whose secondary effects have inevitably impacted on domestic prices.
The POTRAZ Q4 report of 2021 attested to rising inflation which impacted on the country’s growth in internet usage, with escalating costs of telecommunications forcing a reduction in the volume of data consumed by subscribers in Q4 to December 2021 which saw Mobile internet and data traffic declining by 3.5% to record 24,991TB from 25,902TB the previous quarter.
Our core operational costs from infrastructure and software upgrades require foreign currency and the runaway inflation and exchange rate resulted in the company’s operational costs rising steeply.
Network availability continued to be negatively affected by persistent national grid power outages, exacerbated by increased cases of vandalism and theft at our telecom tower sites. Whilst the business has accelerated the installation of solar power solutions to mitigate network outages, importation of spare parts continued to put additional pressure to the already scarce foreign currency availability.
The business was swift to navigate the headwinds by addressing the needs of our people, customers and suppliers. The “new normal” triggered by the Covid-19 induced lockdowns presented us with an opportunity to leverage our digital solutions and create a more sustainable future for businesses, schools, churches, hospitals, and all sectors of the economy as most operate remotely.
The ongoing national progress in vaccinations against Covid-19 has gone a long way in ensuring return to normal business as stricter lockdown restrictions have been relaxed, thereby boosting economic activity.
During 2021, we maintained our position as a digital enabler through rolling out innovative products to our customers and providing reliable connectivity which subsequently resulted in increased customer confidence in our business.
In a first for our market, and consistent with our culture in making sure that our customers are always FIRST to experience new innovations and technologies, we launched 5G technology in Zimbabwe on Thursday 24 February 2022. The 5G technology is part of our endeavour to transform the way we all live and work by unlocking a broad range of opportunities in manufacturing, mining, health, agriculture, safe cities, education, the list is endless.
Bridging the digital divide and delivering a digital lifestyle through connectivity, gaming, and music streaming, our data and voice traffic grew by 58% and 19% respectively compared to previous year.
Leveraging on additional spectrum received from the regulator, we commissioned 80 LTE (4G) new sites as part of our LTE densification program, including extension of high speed data coverage to rural areas.
Our multiple digital touch points such as chatbots, web selfcare, USSD self-care and WhatsApp helplines have gone a long way in assisting our customers with the much needed convenience and efficiency. Our Self-Care platforms (*111# and Web Self-Care) handled 93% (24 million) of total customer interactions compared to 10% (3 million) in the previous period.
Keeping employees safe and engaged
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of organisational resilience in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambigous (VUCA) environment. Keeping our employees safe, healthy and fully engaged has been a key priority since the onset of Covid-19. To achieve this, we leveraged technology and collaborative digital tools to ensure successful employee engagement during the extended periods of remote working. When not working from home, we implemented workforce separation aligned with social distancing and business continuity measures and tightened safety and health protocol across our workplace. We ensured that all our employees had easy access to personal protective equipment and facilitated easy access to vaccination.
Regular virtual wellness trainings were held periodically. In addition, wellness messages were sent to keep employees updated and ‘pulse surveys’ conducted to check on their well-being and how they were coping. Training and competency development for employees also continued digitally, with online modules covering topics ranging from personal development to professional and technical courses as the business provided access to Linkedin and Odilo learning platforms.
We believe that sustainable business practices are essential to the creation of long-term value, and that running our business in a responsible manner is intrinsically tied to achieving operational excellence; accordingly, our Board exercises oversight over the company’s performance with respect to ESG factors as a part of our duty to directly oversee Econet’s corporate strategy. We are therefore proud to share Econet’s ESG report section within this report, which highlights our perspective on the issues that matter most to our business and our stakeholders including our customers, shareholders, regulators and investors. The ESG report is intended to provide Econet’s approach to performance on ESG issues.
In keeping with our culture of excellence in the areas of financial performance, wellness, social responsibility and corporate governance, we scooped the 2021 Top Companies Survey Award in July 2021, winning this coveted award for the second year in a row.
In spite of economic headwinds faced by the company, we remained resilient. We placed more emphasis on investment in infrastructure and innovative platforms and services.
Inflation adjusted revenues increased from ZW$57.9 billion to ZW$87.3 billion. EBITDA margins remained positive at 52% as a result of cost containment initiatives.
Debt to equity performance improved to 13.4% from 13.6% the previous year.
Voice traffic increased by 17%, data consumption was up 48% whilst SMS traffic was down 19% compared to the same period last year.
We maintained customer market share leadership as we focused on addressing customers’ pain points. During the period, we added 1.7 million new customers to stand at 14.9 million customers, up from 13.2 million in the previous year. According to POTRAZ, 4th Quarter Report of 2021, our market share of mobile subscribers closed at 64.9% whilst market share of internet & data traffic was at 75.9%, up from 74.1% the previous quarter.
We aspire to be a consistent partner of choice. In line with our journey to reposition our communications business to a digital services business, focus will also be on deploying new network technology and enhancing the digital lives for enterprises, SMEs, the government and our business-toconsumer (B2C). We continue to pursue growth strategy buttressed by increased investment distribution channels, particularly in view of global ecosystem disruptions brought about by Covid-19.
Dr D. Mboweni
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
8 July 2022
*RBZ Monetary Policy Statement
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited Integrated Annual Report 2022
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