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Kwese TV, Zimbabwe and the mirage of digitalisation

This only came to light after Anhui, a Chinese partner of Fernhaven in the construction of Longcheng Plaza, went to court to protest the use of the mall as security for an African Export-Import Bank loan to Africom.

Why is this relevant?

 Because Africom has been quietly involved in the launch of a video-on-demand platform, Nhaka TV.

The service, the company said in 2016, would have 34 channels that would focus on “Afro-centric content that is grounded on African heritage”.

It planned to buy content and distribute it online, and to ZBC and other platforms.

The project never flew.

Kwese, in the meantime, was looking for a route into the Zimbabwean market.

It was never going to be easy.

In 2016, it agreed a deal with ZBC under which the state broadcaster would show the 2016 Rio Olympics and one live English Premier League match every Saturday.

It never lasted, as Information Secretary George Charamba ordered ZBC to cancel the deal.

The government, Charamba revealed, saw Kwese not just as content provider, but as a competitor.

“I have differences with ZBC management’s view to introduce a competitor. I don’t sit here to mould a competitor riding on our national broadcaster’s platform. We don’t work like that. We can’t abuse a national institution by carrying a competitor. Hazviite izvozvo (That won’t happen),” Charamba declared to the Financial Gazette.

Already, Kwese had been denied entry into Zimbabwe.

“We really wanted Zimbabwe to be on the launch schedule for next week. More resources have been expended to getting the approvals in Zimbabwe than in all the countries put together. I remain hopeful that one day the approvals will be granted,” Econet owner Strive Masiyiwa wrote on Facebook in January.

It now appears that, in its impatience, Kwese got a bit careless.

Unable to get their own license, they decided to ride on the back of a company, Dr Dish, that already had a licence to offer satellite services in Zimbabwe.

Dr Dish, owned by Nyasha Muzavazi, had been awarded a licence in 2012 to offer satellite services on behalf of My TV Africa.

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