EcoCash efforts bear fruit

EcoCash, the mobile money transfer platform of Econet Wireless, has spent more than two years trying to persuade international remittance agencies to send their money through EcoCash which now reaches more than 9 million Zimbabweans.

Almost all the world's leading global Money Transfer Agencies (MTAs) now have a direct route into Zimbabwe through EcoCash. These include Western Union, Moneygram, World Remit, Chitoro. Most importantly EcoCash has also set up its own direct route from South Africa known as EcoCash Flash, which is a joint venture with the South Africa's largest supermarket chain, Shoprite Group.

Setting up these systems goes beyond simply signing an agreement or getting approvals from central banks. It is usually followed up by investment in computer software platforms that must be integrated.  Explaining the process, Econet Services head, Dr Jimmy Shindi said: “Each relationship that we have has taken at least 18 months to set up, and we have had to invest a lot of money to meet regulatory requirements. It has not been easy."

EcoCash is now accessible from over 200 countries around the world. People can even send money over the Internet to an Econet phone number. Remittances are very important to a country like Zimbabwe which does not have access to donor funding and exports are weak. They are not only the largest source of foreign currency but they sustain a lot of families.

For Econet getting remittances to flow into the country more efficiently is key for the economy; and the Reserve Bank has been quick to recognize the efforts of Econet to help improve the flow of remittances.

Speaking about the support, Econet Wireless CEO Mr Douglas Mboweni said: “When we went to the RBZ, and we told them we want to help increase the flow of remittances into the country, they immediately understood what could be achieved and offered us their support. They knew that as the largest operator we had the ability to open up this area to the benefit of the economy. This was a case of people working together for the good of the economy."

Mr Mboweni said Econet was now investing heavily in getting Zimbabweans in the diaspora to use EcoCash to send more money home to their relatives. "We want them to know that it is quicker, cheaper and safer than any system out there. If we can get them to send more money home then it's good for everybody."

Looking forward, Mr Mboweni said that now that all the major MTAs are now on board, Econet expected to see remittances increase steadily.  "If we can achieve a 20% increase in inflows of remittances because it is now cheaper and easier to send money, it will help relieve the pressure of liquidity in the economy. Eventually we want to see remittances into Zimbabwe double."

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