In a country where statistics are hugely inaccurate and not regularly available, the country’s three mobile phone service providers, Net One, Econet and Telecel, claim they are reaching out to Zimbabwe’s unbanked population, whom they say make a huge percentage of the population.
The companies claim they want to reach out to rural customers and those that have no access to banks, as they continue to diversify in the hope of luring more clients.
Due to the growth of use of mobile phones in developing countries, mobile operators are cashing in on the convenience that the mobile phones offer.
While this may be a new innovation in Zimbabwe, Kenya was a trendsetter, having mobile phone company Safaricom introducing M’Pesa, the cash transfer system sometime ago.
Recently, Econet launched a mobile money transfer system, but the company says this should not be mistaken for mobile banking.
“The misconception that EcoCash is mobile banking is false, it is a mobile money transfer, more like a mobile wallet,” Curtis Takawira, an official from Econet said.
Telecel, on the other hand, have come up with a system that they claim is technically different from Ecocash, as it offered a variety of products to its clients.
The company partnered with banks under the ZimSwitch banner, saying this gave them wider coverage across the country.
“Telecel has entered into a partnership with ZimSwitch that allows ZimSwitch member financial institutions to provide mobile banking services through Telecel mobile network,” Francis Chimanda, from Telecel, said.
Their advantage, Telecel says, is that their clients can make their transactions at either supermarkets, post offices, stores or any outlet with a ZimSwitch Ready sign.
“Our charges are low but viable. Telecel and its banking partners would wish to see many of those who have not previously had a bank account brought into the banking system through mobile banking,” Chaminda said.
They hope that their affordable services and the strength of the reputations of the partnered financial institutions can be expected to increase confidence in the concept.
Despite the money cash transfer system being new, it is already receiving rave reviews from people who have used it.
“EcoCash is extremely convenient and a well thought out initiative. Though it’s still in its early stages we are yet to see if it will be recognised brand. People hate the inconvenience of banks so it might be a success story,” Lizwe Chitanganya, a Harare resident, said.
“I don’t even know there are transaction charges but obviously that’s always a deterrent to such services.”
Convenience was cited as being the major factor why the mobile transfer system could prove to be a hit with Zimbabweans.
“Well, it is not different from other money couriers like Western Union, just that it’s more convenient sending money while you are at home or anywhere,” Busi Matinhure said.
Shiana Nazareth said, “What I like the most is that I can purchase airtime anytime and send money to my friends and siblings. It’s really a good innovation.”