from SIMBARASHE RUSHWAYA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe has introduced banking booths in the countryside in an effort to enable rural folk perform financial transactions.
Through the initiative, pensioners can also now access their money following a partnership between the country’s biggest operator and the government’s social service.
These will cut the need for these under-served members of the community to travel to long distances to urban centres for such services.
The booths, where individuals will transact using the Ecocash platform, are also a consolidation of the mobile operator’s market share.
In an interview with CAJ News Africa on Wednesday (today), Econet Public Relations Manager, Fungayi Mandiveyi, confirmed they have since partnered with social security company, National Social Security Authority (NSSA), to ensure pensioners get their monthly allowances on their doorsteps.
In the past, the retired workers were forced to travel to urban centres where they accessed their money, in the region of US$60 (about R1,200).
In a country where inflation has been galloping, most pensioners were left with nothing as the large chunk of the earnings was spent on transport.
The rural folk in Zimbabwe have also been struggling to open accounts. Most of the financial institutions demand that only the formally employed can open accounts, while informal traders find it hard to open a bank account.
Yet in Zimbabwe, most people are self-employed after industries closed down due to various reasons – chief among them the ailing economy.
The country has seen the majority eke out a decent living through unregistered small business initiatives while many in the employment bracket struggle to live normal lives.
“I’m happy to confirm that we (Econet) have joined hands with NSSA so that pensioners can access their dues on Ecocash,” Mandiveyi told CAJ News Africa.
“This has helped a lot because some of them (pensioners) were losing their money on transport alone,” said Mandiveyi, who spoke from Victoria Falls by telephone.
Evermore Mugodhi, a pensioner in Ruwa, 22 km southeast of Harare, used to travel to the capital but now withdraws her money 500m from her residence.
“We are happy that NSSA and Econet came up with this arrangement because now I can access my money here and use it without factoring in transport costs,” she said.
Ernest Muvanduri, is one of many youths that have benefitted through employment after the opening of the booths.
“All along I was operating my business under the tree. These booths are a game changer. They are as good as banks,” he said.
“People come here to deposit or withdraw their money the same way they do in a bank elsewhere. The biggest advantage with this method is that we are on our customers’ doorsteps,” Muvandiri said.
Another Econet booth operator, Honest Mashava, located 450 kilometres away in Birchenough Bridge, believes the booths have increased customer confidence in Econet.
“There was a time when we were forced to be mobile while doing these transactions, which eroded confidence,” the agent said.
“The advent of the offices (booths) has changed everything. Customers now believe us more.”
Most customers are from surrounding areas such as Gunura, Goko, Manesa, Mutema and Nechikowa. They no longer travel to Chipinge or Mutare for services.
Econet has 15 530 merchants across Zimbabwe, most of them fully-equipped with the classic booths.
As of the end of 2022, Econet has 9 753 620 subscribers countrywide.
– CAJ News