The new service, branded EcoCash, will allow users to send and receive money, buy airtime, and make other payments using their mobile phones. Unlike other mobile banking offerings that have emerged on the market, customers using EcoCash are not required to have a bank account, do not need to switch their SIM cards for new ones, and can move money across different mobile networks. Econet Wireless CEO Douglas Mboweni said the arrival of EcoCash means that the millions of Zimbabweans without access to traditional banking services will now have the ability to send and receive money, without first having to travel to the nearest bank. “You will not find a bank at every corner of the country, but, thanks to the extensive coverage we have built over recent years, mobile phone access has spread to virtually every corner of the country,” Mboweni said. “Sending and receiving cash will no longer take days; it can now be achieved virtually instantly.” Buying airtime for loved ones will also now be more convenient and faster with EcoCash. Econet has engaged over 500 EcoCash agents countrywide, providing employment to small businesses in some of the country’s most remote areas. Post offices have also been registered as agents and discussions are ongoing with the major retail chains. Mobile money transfer services have significantly stimulated economic activity in other African markets, especially in East Africa. In 2010 alone, some 14 million Kenyans transferred US$7 billion across their country via mobile money transfer. According to estimates by global telecoms researchers Pyramid Research, the value of money transfers over mobile networks in Africa will reach US$200 billion by 2015, almost 8% of Africa’s nominal GDP. Econet said that with its ability to allow more Zimbabweans to move more money across the country faster and purchase goods using their mobiles, EcoCash will contribute significantly to economic growth. To use EcoCash, customers will register with an accredited EcoCash agent. The customer will then access the EcoCash menu via a simple code on their mobile phone. They will then “Cash in”, which is to load money onto their virtual wallet. With that “e-money”, the customer can now send money, or buy airtime. Soon, paying bills and groceries will be possible via the service. To receive money, a user will “Cash out”, which is to receive money from a registered EcoCash agent.
Econet Wireless, which is currently Zimbabwe’s largest telecoms company, has launched the country’s first truly mobile money transfer service.