The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says the rapid increase in mobile phone deployment in Zimbabwe has created business opportunities for small and medium-scale entrepreneurs in the country.
In its information economy report for 2011, UNCTAD said such entrepreneurs are able to conduct electronic business or e-business as 59 percent of Zimbabweans have access to mobile phones compared with only about 5 percent in 2005.
Such penetration, though still below the average of 77 percent in developing economies, is playing a critical role in boosting micro and small enterprises in Zimbabwe, UNCTAD said. It noted that there is a gender gap in mobile phone ownership in the developing world with 300 million fewer women than men owning mobile devices.
Information and Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa told VOA that e-business has become a key component in reviving Zimbabwe’s economy and creating business opportunities for smaller players.
Economic commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said that while many small-scale entrepreneurs are doing business over mobile phones, mobile service quality remain an issue.
"There is need for service providers to improve services in order to create more opportunities for small-scale businesses," Ngwenya said.
The report said that as mobile phones are the main ICT tool used by micro-enterprises and SMEs in low-income countries, these trends reinforce the likelihood that mobile networks will be their main way of accessing the Internet in the near future.
"In Africa, where 84 million mobile handsets are already capable of using the Internet, 7 out of 10 are expected to be Internet-enabled by 2014," the report said.