Zimbabwe’s telecom regulator has granted approval for Elon Musk’s Starlink to operate within the country, marking a significant step toward enhancing internet accessibility. President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the decision on Saturday, highlighting the potential for deploying high-speed, low-cost, low-Earth-orbit (LEO) internet infrastructure across Zimbabwe, particularly in rural areas.

“This move is anticipated to bring high-speed, affordable LEO internet to all corners of Zimbabwe, especially rural regions,” Mnangagwa stated. Starlink will provide its services through its exclusive local partner, IMC Communications.

According to a 2021 World Bank report, only 34.8% of Zimbabwe’s population had internet access. The country’s internet service market is primarily dominated by three major mobile network operators. The introduction of Starlink is expected to diversify the market and improve connectivity, especially in underserved rural areas.

The approval of Starlink comes amidst a government crackdown on unregistered users smuggling Starlink kits from neighboring countries like Zambia. Starlink is already available in several African nations, including Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi. However, not all countries have been as welcoming; last month, Cameroon ordered the seizure of Starlink equipment at its ports of entry due to licensing issues.

With Starlink’s entry into Zimbabwe, the country hopes to bridge the digital divide and enhance internet penetration, fostering greater connectivity and economic opportunities.