LOCAL firm Smart Payment Solutions (Pvt) Ltd has unveiled the country's first universal electronic payment system (UEPS), expected to provide impetus for the establishment of a cashless transactions market. Zimbabwe presently lacks a truly mobile banking platform, as most local financial institutions and mobile telecommunications providers only offer mobile money transfer services.
The UEPS offers the financial institutions an effective mobile banking platform.
To this extent, the UEPS can also play a critical role in extending financial inclusion in the country in view of recent revelations that a mere 22 percent of Zimbabweans rely on informal financial products and services.
SmartPay managing director Ms Miriam Mutizwa told journalists yesterday the new system would "revolutionise" the financial services sector.
"This new electronic banking concept will facilitate the cashless transactions market through a prepaid smart card/debit card issued via retail and community agents," she said.
"This will create a branchless banking model offered through the smart card. This becomes the physical bank account underwritten by the various financial institutions that will join SmartPay's electronic banking concept."
The new system is expected to link the payment systems of all banks, savings and loan companies and building societies in the country.
Ms Mutizwa said her company had extended invitations to all financial institutions in Zimbabwe for use of the platform.
She said most of these were currently engaged with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe over approvals to use the system.
The RBZ and the Ministry of Finance have been actively promoting the use of electronic payment systems as opposed to cash as a means to negate the effects of liquidity challenges and extend financial inclusion in the country.
Financial experts believe that a cashless transactions market could result in significant savings, as opposed to handling cash.
Although financial institutions utilising the UEPS are largely expected to determine the range of transaction charges for their particular services, Ms Mutizwa said they anticipated the UEPS charges to be "significantly lower" than traditional bank charges.
According to SmartPay, the services offered through the smart card range from wage payments, pension payments, social grant payments, cash deposits, cash withdrawals, balance enquiries (directly from the card), transaction lists (also directly from the card) and deposit without card.
Others are wallet-to-wallet transfers, money transfers between smart cards, third party bill payments to registered, linked and once-off merchants, among others.
One does not have to have a bank account to transact via the new system.
Ms Mutizwa said they were looking to reach a "significant saturation point" within the next six to 12 months. At this point the company would have set up at least 5 000 Point of Sale (POS) centres across the country, especially in the rural areas where the majority of the populace does not have access to financial services.
These POS facilities would be available for sharing by the banking sector. SmartPay are thus providing infrastructure and technology for local financial institutions to better service their clients.