ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe on Tuesday launched a debit card that enables users to transact from EcoCash mobile wallets through Point of Sale (POS) as the telecoms firm seeks to widen financial inclusion in the country.
The innovative functionality on its mobile money service EcoCash allows cellphones to also operate as a virtual debit card.
The EcoCash POS terminals which are installed with Near Field Communication (NFC), will also accept VISA and MasterCard cards.
NFC is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres.
Econet Wireless Services chief executive officer Darlington Mandivenga said the over two million subscribers currently using EcoCash platform now have a debit card on their phones.
“Banking is no longer a place where you go to, but something you do. No longer do you have to go to brick and mortar banks,” said Mandivenga.
He said Econet plans to equip every store in the country, including in rural areas — with an “EcoCash Terminal” adding that the company would not sell the terminals, but lease them to participating stores and merchants.
“EcoCash debit card, your phone is the card. The phone is the ideal medium for us to change lives. It is our conviction that conversion will happen on the mobile phone,” said Ecocash chief executive officer Cuthbert Tembedza.
“It’s an exciting development for us, we have created a whole new division for merchant services.”
Tembedza said the company had invested in over 10 000 POS with half already having been deployed.
In her keynote address, acting Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Charity Dhliwayo said: “Globally, there is a growing policy interest in the financial access agenda. The RBZ recognises the strategic position of payment system in the country.
Payments systems form the backborne of any economy, they are the arteries of conducting trade, commerce and other forms of economic activities including remittances in any country.”
“The Ecocash POS will promote the use of the mobile phone as a virtual debit card and is therefore expected to go a long way in making it more convenient for merchants and customers as they perform their transactions.”
He said the central bank welcomed the increase in the number of banks that had migrated to the EcoCash platform, adding that Ecocash and other service providers should continue promoting “interoperability in the economy”.
Independent estimates show that nearly $3 billion is circulating outside the formal banking system as the economy continues to be informalised. A survey carried by the ministry of finance in 2011 revealed that 40% of Zimbabweans are financially excluded.