The constant complaint with mobile money services locally (EcoCash really) is that it’s expensive to use. Since launch. They reviewed the transaction fees downwards once, a few weeks after launch, but EcoCash remained the most expensive mobile money transfer service in Zimbabwe. So yes, we mourned a lot about it every time we got a chance. Those prayers are about to be answered.
The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono, yesterday gave a directive to the mobile network operators (to Econet really) to review their charges by end of March 2013. Referring to the market structure as oligopolistic (dominated by a few providers), Gono explained the need for “an intricate balance” to be struck between the pricing policies and building sustainable confidence in such services.
Our sources at Econet confirm they were already working on a revision of the transaction fees even before this RBZ directive and that it will be announced. They couldn’t however tell us exactly when. We certainly hope it won’t be on the evening of 31 March 2013.
Here’s an extract from the Monetary Policy Statement, the full version of which you can download here:
Payment Systems Pricing Strategy
8.17. The promotion of greater financial inclusion and stability entails the adoption of realistic pricing strategies in order to increase confidence levels in the payment systems. The ultimate objective in the development of payment systems is to ensure that financial services are affordable, safe, accessible, and convenient to consumers.
8.18. As such, an intricate balance has to be struck between the pricing policies within our oligopolistic market structures and building a sustainable confidence level in the services offered. Accordingly, payment system providers such as mobile network operators are directed to review their charges by end of March 2013.
Zimbabwe has 3 GSM mobile network operators (well, 4 but TelOne is really just holding a license and that’s a separate story); Econet, Telecel and NetOne. At one point in 2011, all three had a mobile money transfer service in operation. Their fortunes differed greatly in the year that followed however: Telecel killed off the service and NetOne’s offering never really took off ostensibly because of a requirement for customers to swap in their SIM cards for a higher capacity.