Zimbabwe: 'Mobile Money Changes Will Curb Trader Abuse'

A woman displays the new $10 banknotes on her way out of a bank in Harare (file photo).

Economic analysts say the clarification by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on how mobile money transactions will proceed was welcome as it dispelled fears that the whole system was closed down, disrupting the economy.

The RBZ on Saturday said the public was assured that genuine individual transactions would be processed normally, that is those by holders of ordinary lines, while merchant lines would become one way, allowing incoming transactions.

Merchants would then have to move their money to their bank accounts to then make almost all payments from the bank accounts rather than from their mobile wallets.

The agent lines were all suspended.

Agribank chief economist Mr Joseph Mverecha told The Herald yesterday that the clarification by the RBZ shows that Zimbabwe had not slapped a blanket ban on mobile money platforms such as OneMoney, MyCash, Telecash and EcoCash.

"The modification of the measures by the RBZ is important in that individuals and even small businesses and micro enterprises can transact on the EcoCash platform."

Another economist and a member of the RBZ's Monetary Policy Committee, Mr Eddie Cross, said the intention was not to close down the whole system, but to "curb abuses of the system by money traders and dealers".

He said curtailing the operations of mobile money platforms was one of the measures supported by the MPC, which had been dealing with this matter in the past four months.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mr Takunda Mugaga said the RBZ move was "commendable, but not a solution going forward".

He called for the strengthening of policies to ensure problems associated with the decimation of the currency does not recur, but said for now, holders of "small mobile balances and the rural economy which is dependent on mobile money for survival" will get a reprieve.

"The mobile (money) platforms are proverbially a form of money in this country especially given the shortage of hard cash in the economy which is only at most three percent of the total money supply.

"The measures by RBZ must focus more on regulatory strengthening than disciplinary approach, especially given the dominance of one player in the market or the oligopolistic nature of the market, the risk to a common man is high of mobile platform is to be shut like what happened few days ago.

"What is just needed is strengthening of the know-your-customer principle," said Mr Mugaga.

Another analyst, Mr Persistence Gwanyanya, said the RBZ intervention was necessary to clear confusion in the market and minimise the damage that any disruption of mobile transactions, which currently dominate the transaction space, was going to cause.

"Remember, over 95 percent of transactions today are conducted through the mobile money-based platforms and any disruption of these platforms has serious ramifications to the economy, more so, during this marketing period for farming produce mainly tobacco, cotton and grains," said Mr Gwanyanya.

He said it was crucial for issues between mobile money platforms and regulators be resolved quickly to minimise damage in the market mainly currency instability, at a time when the RBZ has established a foreign currency auction system.

Going forward, Mr Cross said the foreign currency system, which kicked off last Tuesday, was critical in dealing with the local currency's loss of purchasing power.

"We have made a start with the auction of currency by the Reserve Bank on a weekly basis. This needs to be supported by a range of measures which are all under consideration.

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