The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Gideon Gono, announced yesterday the introduction of a deliberate legal and regulatory framework for Mobile Financial Services. The announcement was made as part of the Monetary Policy Statement presentation. “As monetary authorities, we are currently seized with the drafting of appropriate guidelines and policies,” said the Governor.
Specifically the process will produce, a ‘Payment systems oversight guideline’, an ‘E-money and electronic payments guideline’ and an ‘Agency banking guideline’. The guidelines are all scheduled to be finalized this year. The move comes after the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) complained last month that mobile operators were competing unfairly against them in the provision of mobile financial services in the country. The complaints are aimed mostly against Zimbabwe’s largest telecoms firm, Econet, whose EcoCash service has gained significant traction since launch in 2011.
Gono said however that the economy has benefited immensely from the introduction of mobile banking services saying the customer base “has expanded appreciably”, providing greater access to products such as remittance transfers which may prompt increased use of banking services in Zimbabwe.
The ideal situation, Gono said in the statement, is for mobile money transfer services to be “merely a payment system or delivery channel which does not amount to deposit taking.” This way, they would operate on “a credit push principle where all e-money value is backed by pre-funded balances which are held in banking institutions.”
Gono said yesterday that the RBZ will consult regulatory bodies and stakeholders on the matter and said that a memorandum of understanding between the RBZ and POTRAZ will be finalized by end of first quarter 2013.
Gono also said that one problem locally has been a “limited culture of sharing payment systems infrastructure” saying that as a regulatory body they encourage interoperatability and sharing of infrastructure. “Relationships between financial institutions and payment system providers should be complimentary rather than acrimonious,” he said. “Payment system providers including mobile network operators are implored to accommodate all banking institutions on their platforms”