Zimbabwe announces new plan to tackle ‘economic sabotage’
The Zimbabwe Reserve Bank (RBZ), via its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), has directed MNOs to phase out physical bulk airtime recharge sales, and put a cap on individual electronic purchases amid increasing concern over money laundering.
According to the FIU bulk airtime recharge vouchers are being used to facilitate illegal foreign currency trading and “commit economic sabotage.”
A recent statement by RBZ reads: “Airtime dealers have been purchasing airtime vouchers in bulk from mobile telecommunications service using local currency and then disposing same at discounted foreign currency prices. The bulk airtime traders have not been depositing the significant foreign currency proceeds so generated into banking system but have instead channelled the same to fuel trade on the foreign exchange parallel market.”
MNOs have been told to reduce the sales of physical recharge vouchers to 20% of all airtime sales by 31 January 2022 and to 10% by 30 April 2022.
Econet, Telecel and Netone have been asked to provide a written submission plan to the FIU no later than 7 November, 2021 detailing the measures to be taken to meet the above targets by the set dates.
RBZ’s statement continues: “Mobile telecommunications service providers shall issue circulars to their respective airtime distributors to enforce limits on till-point airtime voucher purchasers. To ensure that customers purchase airtime vouchers for personal use and not for resale, customers shall be allowed to purchase airtime of more than ZW 10 000 in value in any one transaction. A customer can buy up to five vouchers at a time but not exceeding ZW$ 10, 000 in total.”
Zimbabwe has intensified its focus on regulation of mobile money services as well as social media as the country tries to counter the continued decline in value of the country’s local unit of exchange.
Independent economist, Persistence Gwanyaya said “Coupled with a crippling shortage of foreign currency, mobile money is the convenient medium of exchange. Unfortunately, the cracking down on mobile money by the government will worsen the liquidity situation.”