The Sunday Mail
THE Postal Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe is locked in discussions with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in an effort to seamlessly integrate mobile payment platforms with national payment systems.
Customers have complained of the difficulties and costs of moving money between mobile money services provided by EcoCash (Econet Wireless Zimbabwe), OneWallet, (NetOne) and TeleCash (Telecel), and also between mobile services and banks.
The RBZ and Portraz want to make such transactions cheaper and easier. Potraz deputy director-general Mr Alfred Marisa recently told The Sunday Mail Business that there was resistance from some mobile operators that were reluctant to open their platforms, and regulators wanted a resolution that catered “for the greater good of the transacting public”. “We have engaged the RBZ over the near-field communication (NFC) application within all mobile operators in a bid to make it easier for the transacting public to enjoy cross-network transfers. We need Econet, Telecel and NetOne to have that cross-range wireless connectivity so that the mobile owners will be able to access the money from anywhere depending on the network and money availability at disposal at that area.
“However, we still have the problems with some mobile operators which seem to be enjoying the monopolistic advantage over rivals and seem a bit reluctant in complying with the latest developments. We will ensure that we will reach an agreement with everyone for the greater good of the transacting public and the industry,” said Mr Marisa.
NFC allows contactless payment systems that facilitate mobile commerce. The physical cash shortages that are affecting the local market have seen consumers and businesses shifting to alternative payment systems. The National Payment Solutions Act (Chapter 24:23) empowers the central bank to mainstream local payment solutions.
Though efforts have been made to push for alternative payment options, charges for mobile and electronic transactions are still considered relatively high. Steward Bank, for example, charges about US$1,25 to move money from one’s bank account to EcoCash, a service offered by its parent company, Econet. Analysts say the RBZ must get businesses to move from a margin-based business to a volume-based business model.
Mr Marisa said: “We are also carrying out discussions with the RBZ over the cross-network transfers and charges which are way too high. We need them to be affordable to everyone to cater for those who have mobile phones and may not have bank accounts, which are the majority . . .”
Statistics from Potraz show that Zimbabwe’s active mobile subscriptions stand at 12,9 million, giving a mobile penetration rate of 94,8 percent. Internet subscriptions stood at 6,7 million, or 50 percent of the population. Mobile commerce can thus cover the majority of Zimbabweans, most of whom are presently financially excluded from the mainstream economy.
Since the cash crunch started in March 2016, plastic and electronic money transactions have risen to 70 percent of all retail transactions.