Twenty-fifteen has gone, so has the deadline for banks to submit their financial inclusion plans. We hope the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) will soon be able to share information on banks that are serious on financial inclusion, as well as those that failed to meet the deadline.
BY MUNYARADZI NYAKWAWA
2015 is the year in which we saw government and quasi-government organisations showing interest in financial inclusion matters. The monetary and the fiscal policy officers paid a lot of attention to financial inclusion, albeit from different perspectives. This was quite encouraging, especially when we look at bottom of the pyramid economics and its impact on economic development.
The big question for every financial inclusion enthusiast, scholars and researchers is: what should we expect in 2016?
Personally, I feel 2015 was the year when the concrete foundation was finally laid, after so many years of digging trenches. Here are my predictions for 2016.
The central bank made it mandatory for banks to submit financial inclusion plans and as such no new bank licences are going to be issued without credible financial inclusion policies.
In line with the submissions by banks, 2016 will be the year in which the country will come up with a national financial inclusion strategy. A national strategy is essential in order to have a clear national vision.
A widely-accepted national strategy will encourage organisational adoption and set-up individual organisational structures to facilitate the development and execution of harmonised and sound national policy reforms.
2016 is a year of policy implementation. It is also the year in which Zimbabwe will finally submit the central bank’s institutional commitment to financial inclusion as is required by the Maya declaration, of which RBZ is a member.
Mobile network operators, microfinance institutions and banks
The mobile network operators (MNOs) have been the major players in enhancing financial inclusion through mobile money. 2016 will see this trend continue; new products and services will be launched this year. It is the year in which the MNOs will partner with many companies to disrupt the market.
Banks will come around and start serving the bottom of the pyramid, no frills accounts will be opened. Instead of the banks opening agents, these no frills accounts will be linked to mobile money to increase access. Banks will tie up with MNOs to enhance mobile banking and with mobile money for accessibility and convenience.
Microfinance institutions (MFIs) have always been major players in financial inclusion. They will reach their customers through mobile and loans will be disbursed and repaid through mobile money. The number of MFIs linked to mobile money will increase significantly this year.
Salaries and pensions
This is the year that the government, parastatals, companies and pension schemes will consider the plight of the unbanked, underbanked and unhappily banked civil servants, employees and pensioners. Salaries and other pensions will be paid through mobile money — much to the delight of those affected who used to travel costly long distances to access their monthly salaries, allowances or pensions. This is the year in which government will pay through mobile money.
National policy will declare that government, over and above being a regulator, must show confidence in financial inclusion initiatives and start using them as well.
This is the year that we will start talking about real e-government. The decline in official development assistance will bring a realisation that government domestic resource mobilisation can be enhanced through e-government. Mobile money will be a major contributor to improving domestic resources.
This has the potential to be the product or service of the year.
Innovative MNOs will launch new insurance and assurance products this year. Mobile-based insurance products will be cheaper and accessible, which is the main goal of financial inclusion. MNOs will create mutually beneficial relationships with insurance companies to come up with another disruptive product on the market.
The biggest employers in Zimbabwe are now the SMEs and the informal sector; this year we will see an increase in mobile money-based insurance products, from health insurance schemes via insurance of things to life insurance — all developed with the informal sector as the priority.
The continued decline in official development finance in Zimbabwe has made remittances an important aspect of our economics.
More money will come to Zimbabwe through mobile money this year. Zimbabwean MNOs will sign agreements with MNOs in other countries for international interoperability. This is to say, for example, a Mpesa user in Kenya will be able to pay directly into a wallet in Zimbabwe like EcoCash.
Remittances to Zimbabwe are driven by the number of Zimbabweans abroad, the incomes they are earning abroad and the cost of living in Zimbabwe.
Recently, we read that per capita incomes are going down, thus those abroad are duty-bound to send money home to families and loved ones. There is no better way to send money than directly into the wallet of the recipient, which is cheaper, and the dollars saved can be sent home again.
Munyaradzi Nyakwawa is a digital financial services consultant and financial inclusion analyst. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn