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Zimbabwe's Econet initiates new mobile money arrangement

Zimbabwe's Econet initiates new mobile money arrangement.

Agent banking, a new arrangement initiated by Zimbabwe's Econet Wireless in conjunction with its banking unit, Steward Bank, will empower mobile money agents to offer banking services to the unbanked populace.

Bank accounts on the EcoCash mobile money platform, run by Zimbabwe's Econet Wireless, have increased to 1.1million.

The EcoCash platform now has about 3.5 million registered users while the Econet network now carries 9 million subscribers. Of the 3.5 million EcoCash mobile wallet subscribers, 1.1 million now have bank EcoCash Save savings accounts held in conjunction with Steward Bank.

Zimbabwe's central bank, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), has provided regulatory support for this move.

Kwanele Ngwenya, the chief executive officer of Steward Bank said on Wednesday that the usage of mobile money agents to offer banking services will help reach out to a bigger portion of the unbanked populace in Zimbabwe.

"From the outset, we stated that our mission was to bring in Zimbabweans who had previously been excluded from the banking mainstream. He said this model supports the goal to bring about this financial inclusion.

"Essentially, this will give us the widest reach across the country; there is no question that this new model is a game-changer for the industry," he said.

Global financial institutions are increasingly seeking to expand services away from the traditional services offered in brick and mortar banks, shifting their focus to "branchless" banking and taking advantage of technologies such as the Internet, ATMs, POS devices, EFTPOS devices, and mobile phones.

Under Steward Bank and EcoCash's agent banking arrangement, selected agents will be equipped with high-tech equipment which will enable them to connect to Steward Bank's servers using VPN or other data connections to facilitate real time banking transactions.

Banking and financial transactions that will be offered under the new arrangement include "deposits by cash, direct cash deposits and card" as well as "withdrawals through mobile phone cash out and cards" and bill payments among others.

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