By Ndakaziva Majaka
HARARE – Moira Kambanje, 66, can now receive money from her daughter in South Africa, buy groceries, pay bills and also send money to her other child at a local university.
She does this without even visiting the bank or the city council offices. How times change!
The revolution spurred by mobile money transfer is in sharp contrast to a country teetering on the brink of collapse after inflation ravaged Zimbabwe’s currency.
Since adoption of the multi-currency use by the central bank, there have been stable business transactions despite liquidity challenges.
Mobile revolution has become a critical part of a broader trend of democratisation of finance globally that is affording more people a first step into the financial world.
For most Zimbabweans, who did not own bank accounts, business transactions are now a click away through the advent of mobile money.
Until a few years ago, approximately three-quarters of people in Zimbabwe had deserted the formal banking channels, avoiding any relationship with a bank, making it
difficult for them to send and receive money, and to get credit.
“The fact that most services in the country are interoperable — meaning consumers of competing mobile money schemes now can send money to each other — will more
likely increase exponentially growth in the near term,” Kudzai Mdlongwa, a Bulawayo-based analyst told the Daily News On Sunday.
“By allowing consumers to transfer money across networks, mobile financial services can achieve meaningful adoption. Consumers won’t have to work around the system by
signing up for different services and carrying around different SIM cards.”
By fostering an ecosystem where parties can collaborate and all stakeholders benefit, mobile operators have reached a degree of ubiquity that few industries have
achieved, a report on the mobile money growth noted.
It said existing networks can be leveraged to offer mobile money services to consumers in emerging markets with the same degree of payment security, reliability, and
easy access that consumers in developed countries have long enjoyed.
The growth in mobile phone business in Zimbabwe has been the game changer as operators brought new products to compete against traditional banking.
By end of December last year, mobile money transfer transactions had reached $1 billion — an 80 percent leap from the nearly $800 million in 2013, according to figures released by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).
Mobile money subscriptions currently stand at $5,3 million, representing a 7,3 percent surge from the $4,9 million recorded in 2013.
Zimbabwe has three mobile phone networks — Econet, Telecel and Net*One — whose combined subscriber base is about 11,7 million.
From these, 5 299 271 are mobile money subscribers, representing an increase from the 3 083 126 subscribers recorded at the end of 2013.
Econet leads the way with Ecocash while Telecel has Telecash and Net*One uses One Wallet, as flag bearer in mobile money transactions.
Since the advent of mobile money transfers by the three networks, Zimbabwe has recorded a significant increase in the number of agents who rose from 9,169 in 2013 to 23 379, according to Potraz.
Alix Murphy, senior mobile analyst at online money transfer service, WorldRemit, says mobile money is going to play a pivotal role in global remittances, helping to reduce fees, improve speed and convenience for users.
“Most importantly, mobile money is a key enabler of financial inclusion. There are currently two and a half billion unbanked people in the world i.e without a bank account. One billion of these people already have access to a mobile phone and so a potential means of accessing financial services,” Murphy said.
A WorldRemit analysis found that remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa are projected to reach $33 billion in 2015, with growth in the region expected to be at 0,9 percent.
There are 13 countries worldwide where 10 percent or more of adults have a non-bank mobile money account, and they are all in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 700 million people leaving the ranks of the “unbanked” in the past three years, according to a World Bank (WB) survey.
In five countries — Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe — more adults have a mobile account than a traditional one, according to the WB.
However, the 140-country WB survey of 150 000 adults conducted last year and also released last week, highlighted the huge challenges that remain in meeting a goal of getting universal access to financial services by 2020.
Twelve percent of all adults in sub-Saharan Africa use their phones for non-bank financial transactions, by far the highest rate of any region in the world, according WB report.
The Group Special Mobile Association (GSMA) estimates there are more than 100 million mobile money users globally.
And in Zimbabwe, the ease of transacting without breaking a sweat will not only see Kambanji’s but millions enjoy the new way of sending and receiving money via
mobile platforms. Daily News