By Natasha Chamba
Leading telecommunication company, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe says its mobile money transfer unit, EcoCash, has set aside RTGS$5 million for small businesses in the country’s cyclone-hit areas.
The funding is meant to help rebuild the economy in areas such as Manicaland and Masvingo.
In a statement, Econet said the initiative named ‘Project ReBoot Livelihoods (PRL),’ is a brainchild of the company’s founder Mr Strive Masiyiwa. It will see EcoCash, working with its sister company Steward Bank to provide the funding as soft loans.
However, of the total amount, $1 million will be in the form of a grant to help secure building materials and repair work for the affected agents and businesses.
EcoCash chief executive officer Ms Natalie Jabangwe said the different arms of Econet were trying to find ways to help the company’s customers and partners who were affected by the cyclone.
“Each business in the group has to find a way to help our customers and partners who were affected. For us as EcoCash, we will help small businesses, particularly those who are our agents,” she said.
Ms Jabangwe said the affected agents would be able to borrow up to RTGS$1 000 to help them fix their businesses and restock quickly.
“They will only start repayments after a period of 12 months and interest will be pegged at 10 percent. They do not have to provide collateral security; all they will be required to do is to have a trading history with EcoCash,” she said.
“If someone lost a kiosk and we have records that they were an active agent, they will be assisted to replace the kiosk. EcoCash will also help to ensure suppliers of commodities to these small businesses also play ball.”
She said getting small businesses, including farmers; back on their feet was a critical component of Project ReBoot Livelihoods, adding that another Cassava platform was working on an initiative targeted at small holder farmers, through EcoFarmer.
Steward Bank has also announced that it will participate in Project Reboot Livelihoods by expediting loans to businesses in the area.
“We have set aside special funds for businesses, small or big, that need help. They should come and see us,” said the bank’s chief executive officer Dr Lance Mambondiani.
Econet said it believes that getting businesses back on their feet quickly is key to relief efforts and to critical to protecting employment in the area.
Meanwhile, Econet Wireless chief executive officer Mr Douglas Mboweni has called on corporates and large companies in Zimbabwe to join the “Reboot” initiative.
“Our view is that if each company sits down and comes up with a plan to help small businesses in the affected areas, we can ‘reboot’ this area within six months,” he said.
“We need companies that can step in to provide things like building materials and supplies of foodstuffs to also provide small loans using their products.
“We should not try to make profit, but simply see to help out.
‘The area is not that big and we can actually do it. There is no better way to help someone than to do so through their livelihoods,” he said. The Chronicle