YESTERDAY, the government announced that cash transfers to one million households identified through the Department of Social Welfare as beneficiaries of a $600 million grant had begun, and would be pushed to beneficiaries using the mobile money transfer lines of the beneficiaries’ preference.
Earlier in the week, EcoCash announced that it had removed processing fees on mobile money transfers from the government, or any international donor agencies and relief organisations, directed at vulnerable citizens and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) affected by the COVID-19-induced 21-day lockdown and subsequent business slowdown.
In a move that EcoCash said was meant to cushion the general public in a time of crisis, the company said it is availing its mobile money transfer platform to support vulnerable groups and communities at no extra cost for the transfers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CEO of Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe, the holding company of EcoCash, Mr Eddie Chibi, said the company wanted to use its digital platforms and solutions that help in the current epidemic.
“We are a digital capability company and our goal is to create as many digital solutions as possible to address the current COVID-19 crisis so that lives are saved, first and foremost,” Mr Chibi said.
“The wide distribution of some of our products and services means we can use our platform to reach the vulnerable, even the most remote parts of our country, and offer services that bring convenience to millions of citizens.”
EcoCash has over 93% market share of mobile money users in Zimbabwe, and it processes over 98% of all mobile electronic payments in the country, according to the latest industry data.
The company has, over the past eight years, developed an elaborate distribution network that comprises over 200 000 agents and merchants. It has also integrated with all the major financial institutions in the country, including all the major commercial banks, to offer an open and convenient electronic payments ecosystem that creates financial inclusion to millions of Zimbabweans.
Mr Chibi stressed that EcoCash would be working with the government to avail its platform to deliver relief “where it is needed most”.
This means EcoCash beneficiaries of the COVID-19 relief funds can use their money to buy food, medicines and basic goods anywhere in Zimbabwe — including the remotest parts of the country.
EcoCash users can use their money to buy electricity, airtime or to move part of the money into their bank accounts, as EcoCash is integrated with all banks in Zimbabwe. Beneficiaries can also transfer the money to needy relatives and friends anywhere in Zimbabwe.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the ability for people to make payments in shops, pharmacies, hospitals and many other retail outlets through their mobile phones minimises the need for physical contact, therefore, significantly lowering the risk of potential transmission of coronavirus among citizens.
EcoCash recently reintroduced its FCA [foreign currency account] facility, offering more convenience and choice to its millions of users. EcoCash customers with relatives and friends living abroad or working in the Diaspora can benefit from international remittances via direct transfer into their EcoCash wallets. They can then immediately use the funds to purchase foreign currency denominated goods, or to automatically change the forex on the EcoCash bureau de charge on their EcoCash menu, via USSD, or using the EcoCash app.
The government, through the Central Bank, recently lifted restrictions on the use of “free funds” (or foreign currency held by individuals and corporate organisations) to pay for goods and services at a fixed exchange rate of US$1 to Z$25 in a move intended to help the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.