|Natalie Jabangwe (CEO)|
EcoCash is a mobile money transfer facility which is run by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. The facility has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception and is arguably the largest mobile money transfer agent considering the huge sums of transactions that the platform is said to handle on a daily basis.Apart from just sending money, the platform also allows users to make purchases, settle debts among many other monetary transactions.
On September 2019 as Zimbabwe's second hyperinflation increased the government of Zimbabwe suspended cash-ins (deposits) and cash-outs (withdrawals) in an effort to fight the selling of cash by EcoCash Agents. Street dealers would charges up to 60% of a cash-out as a commission outside the EcoCash official rates. Following the ban, EcoCash approached the High Court to challenge the ban. EcoCash said that the ban was illegal as EcoCash itself had not problem in its system but the some of its customers were abusing the system. Ecocash also threatened to shut down the EcoCash system as a whole to complete the process of complying with the ban. The ban was lifted on the evening of 2 October 2019.
EcoCash was launched on September 29, 2011 and has since then witnessed an unprecedented growth of the facility since its inception. On its launch, the platform was essentially a mobile money transfer facility but there were plans shelved for the future meant to integrate the facility with services like DSTV, open up the platform to work with other banks other than Steward Bank which at the time was still known as TN Bank. Since the launch of the product, it is estimated that the platform has handled over US$4,5 billion with over 170 million transactions processed.
Transacting on EcoCash
Customers can transact on EcoCash in 3 ways:
- Dial *151# on their Econet line
- Use the EcoCash app
Products Offered and Other Services
EcoCash Debit Card
The debit card was introduced on July 30, 2014. The launch of the card came as an added convenience to Econet customers already using the EcoCash facility as the card is automatically linked to the money in the EcoCash wallet. Apart from being able to make payments across borders and also online, the card also relieved customers from the burden of having to travel around with large sums of money. Unfortunately, the card was disabled from making international payments following the cash crisis that started around 2016.
Through a partnership with remittance company World Remit, EcoCash international money transfer product known as Ecocash Diaspora. When the platform was rolled out, it was scheduled to cater for remittances coming from 35 countries but the long-term plan was to increase the number of countries. The product was also commended for its affordability considering that other money transfer agencies such as Western Union were charging 20 pounds for handling a 300-pound transaction while World Remit which Econet had partnered would charge less than 10 pounds. The service works almost in a similar pattern to a conventional EcoCash transaction by sending confirmation messages to both the sender and the receiver. The central bank was also reported to have agreed to raise the limits from US$3 000 to US$10 000 for people who have accounts and also to approve transactions that are above limits on an individual basis to allow greater convenience. EcoCash Diaspora also came with other side benefits which would allow the sender in the diaspora to pay utility bills directly, move money from their bank accounts to the wallets of relatives in Zimbabwe
In December 2013, Econet through its mobile money transfer platform EcoCash announced the launch of EcoCash Payroll and Bulk Payments. Under the platform, small to medium companies would be able to make salary payments to their employees without having to go to banks and make huge sum transactions, the facility was also being offered to companies free of charge. The facility allows companies to make instant payments to their employees as long as their wallet balance has the necessary funds. The move was a welcome especially in light of a story in which a Harare based company was said to have lost US$100 000 meant for salaries. Companies which included the likes of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), fertiliser producer Windmill, Harare City Council, medical aid society Cimas and the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe were already using the EcoCash Payroll system.
Bill Payment Services
In March 2012, Econet announced that all its customers on the EcoCash platform would be able to pay their utility bills via the platform allowing them to transact without having to walk to the premises of the service provider. For a customer to be able to make bill payments on the platform, they need to have an account number with the particular biller they will need to enter this account number when making a payment to the Biller account. Under the arrangement, water bills, DSTV payments and even groceries could be purchased without the use of hard cash. The move was hailed by many people considering the country's seemingly perennial liquidity crunch. The partnership between Econet and DSTV was also hailed by many people because it allowed people to make DSTV subscriptions in the comforts of their homes not to mention instant activation for those utilising the facility.
Through the EcoCash platform, subscribers are able to purchase airtime for their phones as long as they have money in their EcoCash wallet. The facility offers convenience in that subscribers can buy airtime at any moment thereby averting the disappointment of shops closing or other retailers which sell Econet airtime. The airtime facility also allows subscribers to buy airtime for other people on the Econet network as well
EcoCash Business Wallet
In June 2018, EcoCash introduced the Ecocash business wallet, a wallet dedicated to business and is meant to give them more control of their funds. Businesses are able to make and receive payments directly on their business wallet.
Best mobile money award
Problems experience on the platform
Cash crisis fees (2017)
In 2017, following the start of the cash crisis, it became increasingly hard for customers to cash out. Resultantly, agents started charging an extra fee to allow customers to cash out. The fee fluctuated between 10% and 25%.
Selling of Cash
Starting in 2016, following the shortage of cash in the country and the introduction of Bond Notes, EcoCash Agents started charging a commission for cash-outs (withdrawls). As a result cash and electronic money had 2 different values. Initially, agents would charge about 5% for an EcoCash cash-out (for example to get $10, an EcoCash customer would "cash-out" - that is send to the agent - $10.50). Cash continue to attract an even higher value as the cash crisis continued through 2017, 2018 and 2019. In September 2019 agents charged about 60% for cash.
RBZ Ban of Cash-ins and Cash-outs
The high percentages for cashouts by agents resulted in a banning of the cash-ins and cash-outs by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on 30 September 2019. The RBZ cited Section 10 of the National Payments Systems Act - Chapter 24:23 as the basis of the ban. The ban was intended to stop the trading of cash on black market. The move however only result in cash getting an even higher premium of about 100% on the streets even outside the EcoCash platform.
EcoCash contested the ban at the Harare High Court noting that the abuse of the EcoCash system was by some customers and had nothing to do with any faults in the system itself. The RBZ lifted the ban on 2 October 2019.
Relaxation of the daily limit
Back in September a seriously prohibitive ZW$5000 daily limit was placed on EcoCash subscribers. The huge blow disincentivised people from using EcoCash since it meant one simply couldn’t make certain basic payments using the mobile money service. EcoCash and OneMoney have announced that the limit will be getting relaxed – from ZW$5000/day to ZW$35 000/week. Yes, previously you could only use a maximum of 35 000/week but with a daily limit of 5 000. Now you’ll be able to use ZW$35 000 in one day if you wish to do so.
This means mobile money users and regular consumers will be able to use their money with more flexibility and some of the use cases which were unavailable (e.g paying for certain consumer internet packages) will now be available once again.
Interestingly, there are still going to be some restriction meant to discourage money laundering. There is going to be a ZW$5000 limit per transaction which means if you are transacting above that threshold you will have to do so multiple times.
- Alvine Chaparadza, Breaking: RBZ Bans Cash-In, Cash-out & CashBack Facilities On All Mobile Money Platforms, Techzim, Published:30 Sep 2019, Accessed:03 Oct 2019
- EcoCcash High Court Application 01 Oct 2019, Pindula News, Published: 01 Oct 2019, Accessed: 03 Oct 2019
- Clinton Mutambo The EcoCash launch event, TechZim, Published: September 30, 2011, Retrieved: January 9, 2015.
- Taurai Mangudhla Econet Wireless unveils Ecocash Diaspora, Zimbabwe Independent, Published: June 13, 2014, Retrieved: January 9, 2015
- EcoCash launches MasterCard debit card, NewsDay, Published: July 31, 2014, Retrieved: January 9, 2015
- EcoCash Diaspora, Retrieved: January 9, 2015
- Econet Wireless Launches EcoCash Payroll, The Chronicle, Published: December 13, 2013, Retrieved: January 10, 2015
- Ecocash Unveils A Business Wallet Dedicated For Business Payments, Techzim, Published:20 June 2018, Retrieved: 20 June 2018
- LSM Kabweza AfricaCom 2013: EcoCash platform wins “Best mobile money” award, TechZim, Published: November 14, 2013, Retrieved: January 9, 2015
- The unofficial 15% EcoCash fee for cashTechzim, Published: 15 June 2017, Retrieved: 20 June 2018
- JUST IN: RBZ Lifts Ban On Cash In – Cash Out Transactions, Pindula News, Published: 02 Oct 2019, Accessed: 03 Oct 2019
- Farai Mudzingwa, , Techzim, Published: 8 October, 2020, Accessed: 12 October, 2020