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Mobile money craze hits Zimbabwe

By The Africa Report
Posted on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 16:10

Mobile banking has finally caught up with Zimbabwe with financial institutions now scrambling to lure customers with various products.

Several banks and mobile phone networks have teamed up to launch a variety of mobile money brands.

The new service is considered to be smart money transfer technology through the mobile phone.

The service, in a country just emerging from 10 years of economic meltdown, is widely viewed as a huge breakthrough as far as technology is concerned.

Zimbabwe’s three mobile operators, Econet, Telecel and NetOne, now all offer the service in partnership with banking institutions.

For a subscriber to access this facility they have to register their SIM card with their network operator.

The user needs to visit the nearest agent and deposit cash in exchange for “e-Float”.

This e-Float is like money that can be used to make payments or transfer to any other person and is also transferrable to any person or merchant via encrypted SMS.

The receiver of the virtual cash can use it for further transactions, buy airtime or cash-out from mobile money designated outlets.

Telecel Zimbabwe marketing director, Obert Mandimika, said the joint venture with one of the country’s leading banks would enable banks to offer their customers an affordable and easy-to-use mobile banking facility that could change the face of banking in Zimbabwe.

Banking industry officials say millions of Zimbabweans with no access to banking services will benefit as mobile money services bring banking convenience.

But the drawback, critics say, remains high transaction fees that are charged on the mobile money transfers compared to traditional banking channels.

For instance, a charge of US$7 for withdrawing US$100 is relatively costly to rural people who are struggling to earn any meaningful income from their subsistence farming activities.

Analysts say the high charges might be stemming from the cost of going solo where the mobile phone operator incurs high IT infrastructure costs to setup the whole platform.

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