22 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Internet Banking Popular

INFORMATION technology has fundamentally changed the global complexion and face of the banking industry. The advent of Internet banking offers banking firms a new frontier of opportunities and challenges. As the country's mobile subscriber base continues to grow, more and more consumers are warming up to Internet banking.

The opportunity to access a banking account at anytime, anywhere a customer has an Internet connection, is a major advantage for individuals and businesses.

There are no headaches about being unable to access a bank account if one is out of town, or if the weather is too unfriendly to allow an individual to travel to the bank's physical location.

Figures released by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono in 2011 showed that a cumulative total of mobile and Internet transactions of 457 513 valued at US$193,13 million were processed from January to November 2010.

Of the US$193,13 million, Internet transactions accounted for 99 percent, while mobile payments were 1 percent of the same amount.

"Mobile phone penetration in Africa has leapfrogged and Zimbabwe is no exception with a subscriber base estimated to be over five million," Dr Gono said.

"This has created an opportunity for banks and other players to leverage on Information and Communication Technology developments."

Consistent with these developments, the central bank approved the establishment of mobile phone banking initiatives in the country.

"This is consistent with our goal to promote electronic payments and financial inclusion," Dr Gono said.

"We remain resolute in urging the financial services sector and other stakeholders in the market to explore ways of furthering the utilisation of these communication tools as channels for retail payments on a large scale across banks, borders and networks."

Although it is not a new phenomenon to Zimbabwean business, having been in existence for a number of years now, the revolution seems to have gathered pace with a host of electronic and Internet-based services having found their way on to the local market.

Among them are electronic banking, electronic money transfers, electronic bill payments and electronic product purchases, while the cellphone "craze" has also taken the country by storm.

The launch of broadband Internet by Econet, Africom and PowerTel among others has expanded the availability of Internet in the country and it can only mean an accelerated growth in Internet banking.

Conventional banking has always been slow and time consuming, so much so that consumers sometimes have to wait several hours to process a simple transaction like clearing a cheque.

But, Internet banking has tremendously reduced the time required to process banking transactions, thereby making banking faster and convenient.

For the bankers this system is cost-effective, as it has considerably reduced the administrative costs and paperwork related to the transactions.

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