Government has declined to promulgate a law that penalises Ecocash, Econet Wireless's mobile payment system, after local banks complained that the mobile phone was straying into banking activities, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara has said.
He said banks should come up with their innovations that either match or surpass Ecocash, as enacting a legal statute was like fighting against technology. He was speaking yesterday when he officially opened a three day ICT international conference in Harare that drew participants from 12 African countries.
"Banks were trying to use us to fight Ecocash on their behalf," said DPM Mutambara.
"No sorry, you can not fight technology, you have to catch up, you have to develop a competing technology.
"So, the banks were saying why don't you penalise Ecocash, they are going into banking, we said to the banks develop competing products to Ecocash and not to use the law to fight against technology.
"The law is very conservative, it is slow, most of our laws are 30 years old. How can you use laws to judge technology? The law can be a barrier to progress because ICTs are moving on."
DPM Mutambara said Ecocash, together with TN, were going to be the biggest banks in the country because they are tapping into mobile phones whose penetration rate now stands at more than 80 percent.
He said 80 percent of the country's population did not use banks, but Ecocash was bringing them into banking in a simple and convenient way that did not require to go into a brick and mortar wall.
Traditional banks fear that they might lose a significant chunk of their market to the rapidly growing mobile payment system.
Africa, said DPM Mutambara, was one of the leading continents in using mobile banking.
He said SMS were traditionally used by poor people as richer ones from the US and other developed countries would simply make calls and would go to banks because of their proximity and prevalence.
"In other words, in terms of experience in usage of wireless communication, because we are poor and behind, that can be a unique opportunity for us to be leaders in mobile banking," he said.
With ICTs, said DPM Mutambara, long term employment was no longer guaranteed as new innovations would take away the need for human capital and labour, hence the need to invest in intellectual capital.
"Capitalism is no longer the name but talentism," he said.
"Talent is now more important than cash, entrepreneurship and innovation. Capital is about the human brain, creativity and innovation as opposed to cash."
With the best brains, said DPM Mutambara, one could do much better than someone with cash but devoid of intelligence. Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa said mobile penetration rate in Zimbabwe had moved from 30 percent to 88 percent.
"There are 11,2 million subscribers of mobile phones and that constitutes 88 percent of the potential users," he said.
The conference was being run under the theme "Consolidating Africa's competitiveness through Bespoke ICTs". It was attended by government officials and those in the ICT field.