ECONET Wireless has targeted two million subscribers under its EcoCash facility by the end of its financial year in February next year. The expansion promises to transform, for all time, the mobile money transfer landscape in Zimbabwe. Econet Wireless currently has a total of 1,7 million EcoCash subscribers and has projected the number of users to grow rapidly until the entire Zimbabwean population is registered on its network.
Econet's mobile money transfer service is set to transform people's lives in transacting payment of bills to Zesa, Multichoice, Edgars and the City of Harare, airtime top-up and buying goods through cellphones.
What comes as a huge relief to the majority of the people, especially the commuting public in the low-income bracket, is that they can now pay for commuter fares using EcoCash, eliminating the problem of small change.
Econet Wireless has modelled the EcoCash mobile money transfer service along the same lines as Kenya's M-Pesa, which has revolutionised money transfer and the payment system in East Africa's biggest economy.
Econet recently engaged former Safaricom executive Mr Japheth Aritho as chief operating officer of Econet Services to reinforce EcoCash in Zimbabwe. Safaricom introduced M-Pesa in Kenya,.
Mr Aritho said there was a huge need for mobile money transfer services in Zimbabwe, considering the convenience, speed and security associated with the service when compared with the use of hard cash.
"When I check the performance of EcoCash in the first year, it is by far more successful than what M-Pesa did in the first year," said Mr Aritho.
"If I look at the numbers that we closed with during the first year, we are far ahead of what M-Pesa was able to deliver in the first year.
"Some of the things that we are seeing now helping us (in Zimbabwe) to succeed are the same as those we saw in Kenya."
He said considering the challenges associated with small change in Zimbabwe, the risk of carrying cash and the need to financially include previously marginalised people not targeted by banks, the EcoCash facility would help transform many lives.
Sending, receiving money and loading the e-wallet is free of charge while a maximum of 2percent of the value is charged when transacting on the EcoCash facility. All transaction charges range to a maximum of US$2.
Mr Aritho said that judging by the progress EcoCash had registered, the mobile telecommunications and money transfer services provider could in future introduce credit and savings products to the ensure financial inclusion of everybody.
"We want everybody in Zimbabwe to be connected. But it takes time because of the registration processes. Regulations also require us to do a lot of things to ensure we can prevent money laundering and other things.
"We have targets -- our (current) financial year ends in February and we want to close with two million subscribers."
Econet Services chief executive Mr Darlington Mandivenga said EcoCash was designed as an effective solution to real problems of convenience, shortage of change, the speed and security people faced when making payments.
"The desire is not just to introduce or pioneer products in the market, but to introduce innovations that are relevant," he said.
Mr Aritho said there were problems with the way people were transacting, sending money to each other and paying their bills.
People would also not have to be forced to take various unbudgeted-for products in place of small change.