The unofficial 15% EcoCash fee for cash

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This past weekend, I needed to buy some DIY type tools for a project we’re working on at home. Some of the things are available in Harare’s downtown area and the other stuff at the Magaba Siyaso home industries market in Mbare.

My assumption, leaving home, was that I could pay for the things using either a bank card or my EcoCash mobile money. I was wrong.

In downtown Harare, several shops don’t take EcoCash and they won’t take bank cards either. They only accept cash. Some would see this trading reality in a regretful way (that they couldn’t have my business as result). Some would look at me curiously with the “You don’t know this, where have you been?” face. And some were just straight up annoyed; “why waste my precious time discussing the product if all along you knew you wanted to pay with EcoCash?”

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I couldn’t buy anything in downtown Harare.

Moving on to Mbare to try my luck there, I found it was the same story. Except this time one guy offered either to take EcoCash if I’d pay an additional 15% of the price of the product. I objected ofcourse, to which he offered an alternative; “No problem boss, all these EcoCash agents around Siyaso will cash out any amount you want. You can come buy with the cash!”

I went to the EcoCash agents. They had the cash. They also had a condition for a cash-out; 15% of the cash-out amount, over and above whatever EcoCash charges officially for the transaction.

The trader was charging the 15% fee for the product because that’s what the EcoCash agents would charge him for cash. Without the fee, he’d be selling at a loss. He was ready to let my business go.

The trader, later told me, he needed the cash because their suppliers also demand cash.

So, effectively, to withdraw money from your EcoCash, at least in Harare’s downtown, Highfields and Mbare, you should prepare to pay 15% as unofficial transaction fees. I only know of my experiences from those 3 places where the people I dealt with said it matter-of-factly. It could be different in other areas, but my guess is it isn’t. Mbare and Highfields are home to a lot of informal business in Harare and whatever is going on there has likely trickled to other places as well.

Losing 15% is bad enough. What’s worse however is how this 15% is being communicated. It’s as if the fee is part of the official EcoCash transaction fees.

A few weeks earlier, in what I thought then was an isolated thing, a guy selling me some hardware in Highfields had said; “Boss, it costs 15% to withdraw money from EcoCash, this money you want to transfer is not enough!”.

“No it doesn’t!” I retorted.

“Ofcourse it does. What are you talking about? Go to any EcoCash agent!”. He looked surprised.

“No. No need to visit an agent. I’ll show you here,” I said pulling out my phone and opening the EcoCash website so I could put the matter to rest quickly. “There, see…” I pointed.

He read. Then he looked at me, asking, but without saying a word, how I could be serious with this nonsense. Then he looked at his colleagues. And not caring that I could hear him dismiss my logic and the business I had brought, said to them, “Boss vakatsva ava. Regai vaende kwavanotongeserwa nema fees avo epamawebsite.” The Shona loosely translated says “this guy is hopelessly ignorant, let him go buy elsewhere.”

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe may insist publicly that money must work or is working a certain way; EcoCash itself may insist that any ‘unscrupulous’ agent charging for cash-outs be reported; but on the ground, the market is working the way it wants. Whether they like it or not, whether us consumers are happy with it or not, the market says there’s a cost to getting cash, and it is 15%.

Unfortunately for Zimbabweans, there are still a lot of places in the country where traders and retailers won’t take cards or mobile money. Unless ofcourse you pay the unofficial cost of cash.

Magaba Siyaso is a home industries market in Mbare, Harare. It is a market place for metal work and other craftsmanship. People in Harare go to the market to buy products at a cheaper price than they can find in Hardware and home stores in the city. It's said there are 500 registered traders there, but estimate indicate there are more than 3,000 traders. Read More

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 th 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 Read More

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is the central bank of Zimbabwe. Its offices are located at number 80 Samora Machel Avenue in Harare. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe operates under the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act, Chapter 22: 15 of 1964. The Act provides for the Board of Directors and the post of Governor who is responsible for the day-to-day administration and operations of the Bank. The Governor is assisted by two Deputy Governors. Read More

22 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you L.S.M for highlighting this issue. I’ve personally encountered this with a reputable Health-care service provider. For payments made using EcoCash/ZimSwitch, one had to include 9% on top of the cost. The only channel that does not incur an extra charge is RTGS payment. I ended up going the RTGS route but consider people without the option of doing so? A lot needs to be done to stamp this culture out across the entire value chain.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I just do not get why, why people think that having money means having physical hard cash. Its frustrating, Zimbabweans claim to be educated, but I doubt their reasoning capacity and question the value placed/impacted by our education system.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Don’t tell me you can’t see what is in plain sight for all to see. Zimbabwe does not have a credible central bank. The central bank is injecting new money from nowhere into the banking system thereby devaluing everyone’s money. That is why nobody wants to keep money in the bank or in any electronic form.

        1. The Awake says:

          Its not the Central Bank but the banks and its called Fractional Reserve System. If it’s 10% for example if one deposits $1000.00 in the bank a bank is allowed to lend $9000.00 without the hard currency. They then give one a debit card to access the money. The Central Bank however is a beneficial of “the fraud.” It goes beyond the borders and can be traced at the Federal Reserve in the US.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Central bank is injecting electronic money into the system from nowhere so its only a matter of time before the big bang.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s unfortunate some things are beyond econet and rbz and as individuals if something is not working out for you, you can look for other alternatives. After all with the current economic situation, the only way is the cashless way.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I suggest we move away from hard currency and adopt other means of payment.

  5. candy says:

    I am surprised you were not aware of this my brother. This started long back, i think late last year though the percentage were lower. For now i currently pay between 10 -15% for bond notes and between 15% – 20% on US$. I just don’t have any option as i only deal with imported products. I personally i have been factoring this cost on my pricing as most of my sales are either bank transfers or Ecocash. Of course cash is king especially for us informal traders buying & selling products imported from South Africa.

  6. Macd Chip says:

    A country of educated fools!

    You here pple complaining about corruption done gvt and how greedy politicians are, but when they get an opportunity, they are 10 times worse

  7. Pedro Goro says:

    That’s the exchange rate!!

  8. William says:

    Brilliant reporting, confirming in vivid detail what those of us transacting in EcoCash are now experiencing. In the terminology of cryptocurrency, EcoCash Coin is looking more like Mavro and less like Ethereum.

  9. Fusion says:

    Where there is demand there will be cost…. As a business owner…. Do you actually think I can save in a bank or ecocash…. That 15% is for me to buy hard USD and keep them with me… What value do I get keeping them in Banks and ecocash…. And don’t forget the reverse cause if you pay cash you get 10% off…. Please update your article and mention this… Just imagine this situation when you swipe both the merchant and the customer are charged… Do you expect the merchants to not factor this in…. If you get ecocash and you can’t replace stock then what happens…. These are realities we have to accept till things improve… This article is biased to the consumer and not a fair assessment of the situation on the ground

    1. Musao says:

      The situation on the ground is far much worse. I have personally encountered that and worse. If you want cash from these agents they charge you 10%. This is not happening in mbare alone but right up to Roadport. $100 USD = 107 Bond.
      I was surprised to see the price of a certain tile wanted had gone up by $7 from $14 to $21. When I asked the salesperson he told me it was $14 USD cash and $21 if I was using my card or ecocash.

      That is the situation on the ground.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Unonetswa nemunovozvake arikuedza kuzviraramira inga mabank arikuti haana mari asiukaenda uchida loan unopihwa cash ipapo asipachidzi ma withdrawal hatina mari inyika yachoyaremerwa vototamba irikurira mwanavamai

  11. James says:

    Definition of ‘Markets’

    Definition: A market is defined as the sum total of all the buyers and sellers in the area or region under consideration. The area may be the earth, or countries, regions, states, or cities.

    The value, cost and price of items traded are as per forces of supply and demand in a market. The market may be a physical entity, or may be virtual. It may be local or global, perfect and imperfect.
    Todzidzisana kwete kungoita maemotions.

  12. James says:

    Really folks this is a question of supply and demand. Market Market Market FULL STOP

  13. Imi Vanhu Musadaro says:

    You are complaining about symptoms, not the disease…

    1. Anonymous says:

      Real talk 👏👏👏

  14. Webster says:

    Market forces at play. Hard to see what Econet can do about this

    1. Langton says:

      Of course its not Econet’s fault neither is it the agent’s fault!

  15. Langton says:

    Zimbabwe is a net exporter and you cant use electronic money outside the country and that is why cash in on demand, this is also compounded by the sprouting informal market. Command Economy wont work!

Comments are closed.