ZIMBABWE'S second largest mobile phone network provider Telecel Zimbabwe (Telecel) this week unveiled its mobile banking and electronic wallet service, Telecash, turning the heat on the already established mobile money services-Econet Wireless' Ecocash and Net One's One Wallet.
Econet is the country's largest mobile network, with more than 8 million subscribers followed by Telecel with more than 2 million subscribers, while state-owned NetOne has 2,5 million subscribers.
In 2011, Econet launched Ecocash which has more than 3 million subscribers and has handled more than US$2 billion worth of transactions since its launch through a network of more than 7 000 agents.
At the Telecash launch, Telecel mobile financial services director Nkosinathi Ncube said the company has invested millions into the development and marketing of the product which is still ongoing.
"This is the first product that addresses both financial inclusion and inter-operability," Ncube said, adding the product was audited by KPMG and certified by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).
Telecel chief commercial officer Ashraf El Guindy said the company targets to have 60% of its subscribers on the Telecash platform in the first six months of operation which should be around 1,6 million subscribers.
Ncube said Telecash offers convenience for everyone and in particular banking services to people with no previous access to banking and financial services, especially those in the country's remote areas.
"They can receive, deposit and draw money without having to travel long distances to a bank. They can pay for goods and services without having to keep unnecessary amounts of cash on their persons," Ncube said.
"The bulk payments schedule can be uploaded, checked and authorised. There is no need to travel anywhere. Moreover the files can be run even at midnight."
He said Telecash launches with 1,600 agents doted around the country to avoid teething problems with a target to have at least two agents at every key shopping or business centre in the country.
The spending limit for Telecash transactions is US$500 per transaction and US$1 000 per day. The transaction limit per month is US$5 000.
"The subscriber can also request a Telecash debit card, which can be used to pay for goods and services at any of the more than 4 500 ZimSwitch branded point of sale devices in shops, restaurants, hotels and other retail outlets throughout the country," Ncube added.
Telecash subscribers can transfer money from their Telecash wallet to bank accounts at banks that are on the ZimSwitch ZIPIT platform.
Money can also be transferred from major international metropolis straight into a Telecash account. This has been made possible through partnerships with various international money transfer corridors.
Telecash also has a bulk payments facility that allows corporates to make bulk payments, such as salary payments, through Telecash. The same facility also allows banks to make loan disbursements directly into a borrower's account. The borrower can make loan repayments through Telecash as well.
The bulk payment facility is also suitable for non-governmental organisations that disburse money to beneficiaries in remote parts of the country.
In terms of tariffs, Ncube said the charges would be affordable compared to competing products after factoring in value added tax, and the new tax on mobile money services as well as agents costs.
Meanwhile, the RBZ on Wednesday said financial innovation coupled with increased penetration rates in the mobile telecommunications sector has seen the phenomenal growth in the use of electronic means of payment.
"Within this context the Reserve Bank through its oversight and regulatory mandate, is currently seized with coming up with an electronic-payment system regulation," acting central bank governor, Charity Dhliwayo, said in her 2014 monetary policy statement.
"The regulations will provide for the effective management and operation of all electronic means of payments notably, cards, mobile, e-banking and internet among others."
The proposed measures come after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa introduced a tax of 5 US cents on each mobile money transaction effective January 2014.
Dhliwayo said there is also need to promote non-cash means of payment as the Zimbabwean economy has remained a cash economy in spite of the RBZ's efforts aimed at promoting electronic means of payment.
She also noted the propensity by many formal and informal corporates as well as individuals to settle transactions in cash.
"Evidently, as at December 2013, the POS (point of sale) density stood at 400 machines per million, which falls short of the world average of 1 300 machines.
"Nonetheless, the Reserve Bank targets the POS density of 600 by year end, as well as a POS machine for every till machine within five years."
Dhliwayo said the increased use of cash has seen numerous incidences of fake currencies being injected into the economy, particularly during the 2013 festive season.
"Within this context, we urge all key stakeholders, including the banking sector, payment systems providers and businesses to partner with a view to acquiring adequate POS machines to facilitate the wider spread of the gadgets"