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Mobile money agents cash in on Zimbabwe's cash crunch

By , Journalist
Zimbabwe , 17 Sep 2019

Mobile money agents cash in on Zimbabwe's cash crunch

Despite growing complaints over premiums charged by agents to users for cashing out money from their mobile wallets, mobile money continues to be the preferred platform in Zimbabwe, according to the country's Reserve Bank.

Zimbabwe is currently facing a cash crunch as banks fail to meet demand for bank notes and coins. This has resulted in mobile money agents cashing in on this as they charge premiums of up-to 40% for balances cashed out in notes and coins.

Latest figures by the Zimbabwean central bank show mobile money accounting for 85% in transaction volumes for the half year period to June 2019. In terms of value, ZWL23-billion was transacted on mobile money platforms, accounting for 26.3% of all payments values in Zimbabwe during the period.

In terms of value, bank transfers under the Real Time Gross Settlement System accounted for 57% of total transactions while Point of Sale and internet values were at ZWL7-billion and ZWL6.7-billion, accounting for 8% and 7.7% of total values respectively.

The Zimbabwe dollar is trading at around 1:14 against the US dollar.

"During the period January to May 2019, the electronic means of payment transactional activities amounted to RTGS$ 87 billion, from 1 billion transactions," Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya said in the mid-term monetary policy review statement released Friday.

Mobile money companies in Zimbabwe include EcoCash, run by Econet Wireless, One Money controlled by NetOne and Telecash which is under Telecel Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean central bank further explained that the aggregate monthly value of "digital payment transactions increased by an average of 18% during the first five months of 2019" while the corresponding "volumes exponentially increased by a monthly average of 23%" for the period under review.

Despite the rapid uptake and increase in mobile money payments platforms, there have been complaints over the premiums being charged for cash by mobile money agents.

Systematic level

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) said via Twitter on Monday that it was concerned that this was being supported "at a systematic" level.

"We are concerned about the volumes of isolated of reports we have received in connection with EcoCash agents manipulating the cash ecosystem to their unfair advantage by selling cash and at prohibiting rates. We are aware that this practice is enabled & supported at a systematic level," the organisation stated.

It added that "an investigation has been opened which must determine and charge the real perpetrators" behind the premiums being charged by EcoCash.

However, Econet said recently that it is penalising agents illegally charging premiums for cash-outs. Under this, over 1000 EcoCash agent lines had been shut down in the past three months to August 2019.

"We are aware of some of the activities that some of our agents have been participating in and we have been penalizing agents. Within the past three months we have managed to penalize over a thousand agents whom we have closed who have been charging customers fees outside the regulated charges," said EcoCash general manager, Munyaradzi Nhamo.

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