HARARE, May 21 — Econet Wireless, a diversified African telecommunications group, says that poor service delivery by utilities and other government agencies in Zimbabwe is forcing it to divert millions of dollars investing in non-core operations.

Econet, which has invested more than one billion US dollars in its Zimbabwean network, says it has been forced to also invest in operations it would not ordinarily venture into but has to because government service providers in the power sector and road construction, hit by operational challenges, have failed to deliver.

Its Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Mboweni, said here Tuesday that the mobile telecommunications firm had been forced to invest in generators, diesel, road construction and installation of power lines in a bid to extend its network reach.

Zimbabwe is battling power challenges which have resulted in the permanent introduction of load shedding for households and industry.

Mboweni said Econet had become “a mini power company” because of its increasing activities in the power sector which included buying and setting up electricity transmission equipment such as power lines and transformers because national power utility Zesa Holdings was failing to do so.

More than 80 per cent of the Econet network was being powered by generators “at any given time” because of power challenges, Mboweni said. “This is an area we have had to invest in in order to make sure we have got services,” he added.

“You find that in countries like South Africa they do not invest in diesel generators to the extent that we have and yet at the same time we are expected to have the same tariff structure like the South Africans and the Zambians and yet they do not have additional burdens in terms of rolling out their infrastructure.”

Mboweni said bad roads which were not accessible especially in the rural areas also forced the telecommunications firm to finance construction of access roads in order to set up base stations in remote areas.

“We are not into road construction, we do not want to do access roads,” he said, adding that in extreme cases, other extraordinary means had to be used by the company to move its equipment.

“In Gokwe we actually had to move equipment from our site using a helicopter as well as donkey carts because the roads were so bad,” he said.

Publicly-listed Econet in Zimbabwe is a member of the Johannesburg-headquartered Econet Wireless Group, which has operations and investments in Africa, Europe, South America and the East Asia Pacific Rim, offering products and services in the core areas of mobile and fixed telephony services, broadband, satellite and fibre optic networks.