Eco-cash tariffs criticised

By Alfonce Mbizwo, Harare, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s largest mobile network, Econet Wireless, has launched its mobile money transfer service called Eco-cash, joining the rush to tap into Zimbabwe’s unbanked market.

At an analyst briefing on Monday, officials said the company had deployed 500 agents throughout the country. They also announced partnerships with Zimpost, which has over 300 offices countrywide, TN Holdings, which has presence in major centres in the country, and also with 300 independent agents.

At the launch, Econet chief executive Douglas Mboweni said the company considers the unlocking of access to financial services to be a "serious need".

“The banking population in Zimbabwe is very low, with only 14 people in every 1 000 being banked.

“Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration rate is at 70%, yet with that, we only have 1.4% of the population being banked,” Mboweni said.

He said between 60% to 65% of people reside in rural areas in Zimbabwe and that figure would remain stable for the foreseeable future.

Eco-cash immediately came under fire for being too expensive compared to regional competitors.

Financial Express compared Econet’s service Safaricom of Kenya’s M-PESA:Where EcoCash will charge percentages of the money being transferred, M-PESA has fixed charges for transaction ranges.

To transfer US USD200 to an EcoCash subscriber, a subscriber will be charged US4. For the same transaction, an M-PESA subscriber will be charged US 30 cents.

To transfer USD200 to a non-EcoCash subscriber, a subscriber will be charged USD14. For the same transaction, an M-PESA subscriber will be charged US $1.80.

To withdraw USD200 cash, an EcoCash subscriber is charged USD6. An M-PESA subscriber is charged USD1.70 for the same transaction.

However, Econet’s mobile cash transfer transaction facility does not oblige a subscriber to open a bank account and the service is across various mobile networks.

State-owned NetOne already runs a similar service titled OneWallet while Telecel launched its own service called Skwama in partnership with a local financial institution, Kingdom Bank.

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