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Zimbabwe cracks down on digital finance platforms as local unit fumbles

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 13 Oct 2021

The Zimbabwe government has directed banks in the country to “implement a robust automated transaction monitoring mechanism to identify debit cards being used” in a bid to combat illegal foreign currency dealings as the Zimdollar plummets.

The Zimdollar has been in freefall and authorities are blaming electronic banking, plastic money and mobile money platforms for inflaming the street exchange rate, which ballooned to 1:175 against the US Dollar compared to the official exchange rate of 1:90.

The official directive follows a recent crackdown by the country’s central bank on 77 individual currency traders alleged to have abused mobile money platforms to trade in foreign currency. The central bank scanned social media platforms to track down the individuals who were advertising street rates for foreign currency.

Now the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has mandated local banks to “identify the source of funding into the accounts” backing debit cards being used to make multi-purchases at retail outlets in exchange of foreign currency at exorbitant exchange rates.

The banks are mandated to withdraw banking services to the account holders once they are identified and report details of the accounts to the FIU.

CBZ Bank, one of the biggest finance institutions in the country, issued a circular to its employees on Tuesday explaining that it had received regulatory communication citing “great concern on the number of CBZ clients who are advertising parallel foreign currency transactions on different social media platforms.”

The Bank added, “All staff members are being encouraged to identify any persons advertising parallel foreign currency transactions using the CBZ name on social media. Staff members identified by both Regulators to be involved in parallel market activities shall be blacklisted and barred from accessing financial services for the next 2 years.”

The Bank argued that this was in turn alleged to be “fuelling exchange rate distortions” in the country, according to CBZ managing director. The spike in parallel market exchange rates in Zimbabwe has resulted in a spike in prices of goods and commodities. The government requires that businesses price their commodities using the official exchange rate.

Earlier in the week the governor of the reserve bank met with bank executives and other industry leaders as the government looks to save the beleaguered Zimdollar.

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