Africa’s booming telecommunications industry has left Zimbabwe trailing behind, as the declining economy has hindered the country’s main operators’ ability to expand their networks, said a leading industry official on Wednesday.

The market potential is currently estimated at 30 percent, and Zimbabwe has only reached 6 percent. “We have just scratched the surface,” he added.

He laso said that Zimbabwe had to have an injection of foreign currency, the lack of which was slowing the company’s ability to expand

Zimbabwe’s year-on-year inflation rate is just below 1,200 percent, making it the highest in the world. This has resulted in a decline in service as customers need to wait for months before SIM cards are made available on the market. Most Zimbabweans are forced to purchase them on a flourishing black market, at nearly 10 times higher compared to the official price.

Zimbabwe’s international calling tariffs are one of the cheapest in the world, resulting in a rise in international traffic.

In July, Econet secured a loan of US$20 million from Cairo-based Africa Export Import Bank to assist them in increasing its subscriber base to 800,000 by October.

Econet currently has 57 percent of the market share while privately- owned Telecel Zimbabwe has 12 percent, and state-run Net*One has 26 percent.

The company is currently engaged in a battle to win over corporate customers from smaller competitors, following the introduction of a new tariff system which Econet says favors the company due to its efficiency and economies of scale.