Press Release: Econet launches virtual debit card

EcoCash Debit Card

EcoCash Debit CardZimbabwe’s largest mobile phone company, Econet Wireless, has unveiled an innovative functionality on its mobile money service EcoCash which allows a cell phone to also operate as a virtual debit card.

The functionality is a first in the world and in Africa where mobile banking services are expanding as more people use the service to avoid high bank charges. In addition, mobile banking is becoming an attractive option owing to the lack of physical banking infrastructure in one of the world’s fastest growing mobile phone markets with an estimated subscriber base of more than 760-million.

Econet says instead of carrying a plastic card, an EcoCash user can simply “swipe” their cell phone when paying through a credit card terminal.  This means that over 2 million Zimbabweans who are currently users of EcoCash now also have a debit card on their phones, says Econet Wireless Services Chief Executive Darlington Mandivenga.


The interaction between a credit card terminal or Point Of Sale (POS) device is a uniquely Econet innovation. A team of software developers, working at the London offices of another Econet company called TPS, developed the software.

Econet has already started rolling out 10,000 terminals across the country that will not only accept the EcoCash Debit Card, but also any of the traditional credit cards such as American Express, Visa, MasterCard, including those issued by local banks, says Mandivenga.

The announcement by Econet that it has implemented this service for its EcoCash users means that Zimbabwe now has the most advanced cashless system in Africa per head of population when compared with countries such as South Africa, which has one of Africa’s highest mobile phone penetration rates. It also eases the need for United States dollar bank notes in the country.

Mandivenga says Econet plans to have every store in the country, including rural areas, with an ‘EcoCash Terminal’. The company will not sell the terminals as they cost nearly $500 each but will lease them to participating stores and merchants.

The terminals work on the Econet network and are completely wireless and more advanced than those used in many European countries. At point of sale, the customer initiates a “pay merchant” transaction from their EcoCash Wallet on their phone. The customer will then enter the merchant number and amount, and the EcoCash Terminal will print out a merchant copy to be signed by the customer and to keep for their records.

Mandivenga says Econet will allow any bank in Zimbabwe which is integrated to its EcoCash network to also issue its own cards and use the terminals.

The Zimbabwe government has welcomed the Econet initiative which answers the call for the country to go cashless. The company has also managed to complete a process of developing a payment system that would have taken at least five years to accomplish.

With Zimbabwe also hosting the World Tourism Conference in August, it means Zimbabwe will be able to demonstrate that is it has the capacity to accommodate even the most sophisticated tourists and visitors, who in their countries would only pay with plastic credit cards.

Press release supplied by Econet Wireless

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42 thoughts on “Press Release: Econet launches virtual debit card

  1. The interaction between a credit card terminal or Point Of Sale (POS) device is a uniquely Econet innovation. A team of software developers, working at the London offices of another Econet company called TPS, developed the software.

    I am sold….! Big up Econet. Teach the world we can do it.

    1. Sorry bro. If only you could understand what this is. It’s a cellphone send an SMS to a terminal (with a SIM card, so is a like a cellphone as well) so that a receipt is printed. I doubt if it is unique in anyway – or even “innovative”. Terminals have been printing receipts for ages! I thought it was a real card – which I was waiting for

      1. I do understand this…and i am not a fan of “out-of-this-world” solutions that do NOT work. Simple technology that addresses a real need. That’s all we want.

        1. lm with you here, anything which works and offer solution is what we need right now, we are a country on its knees and with no options.

      2. I think the uniqueness is in the Software Implementation not the capabilities of the Hardware.

      3. It is innovative even if it’s a simple modification of existing processes… on the card issue, I think that would be a great idea. Let’s hope the guys at Econet are listening to our cries!

    2. “The functionality is a first in the world and in Africa..”, these people should not lie to us…1st world countries like america are already using this technology…in fact even more advanced where you actually swipe the phone and it interacts with any bank…to me this is actually going back wards because they want people to take money out of their banks and then deposit it into eco cash…then do that funny transaction. Concern i know you personally and you understand software developement…these guys have simply created an interface between a sim card and their servers…that is not innovation…its like buying a scanner for doing stock take then you create an interface to have the scanner then update your database after scanning then claiming you developed the scanning technology…what they have simply done is introduce in zimbabwe something that is not here yet…and it suits them well because they are the loudest.

      1. Gna, we cant be comparing Zim and countries like UK, German, Estonia, Canada & the US. We are several decades behind, both the banking/financial structure and the technology knowledge and usage. So, right now we want solutions that work for us. Forget about what the Americans and British do, we want something by Zimbabweans, for Zimbabweans. Whatever interface they tweaked or copy pasted….personal, i don’t mind. I choose to see the glass as half full.

        And by the way, taking money from your bank into ecocash doesn’t sound very different from taking money from your bank into Paypal, so we not really sliding backwards in that regard.

        1. I think what ignatius maziofa is saying is that the statements like “The functionality is a first in the world and in Africa..” and “more advanced than those used in many European countries” are disingenuous as we do know for a fact that 1) it’s not a 1st in the world and 2) there are superior implementations of the functionality elsewhere in the world. That said, this development is a step in the right direction.

          1. my point exactly, what econet did suits then well because it hasnt been done in zimbabwe…but please dont lie to people by saying its a first in the world…I am happy to see a zimbabwean individual or company bring the advanced technology from other countries and i will still regard it as progression but please do not mislead the people into thinking that you are the one who invented it…seriously shoko, you have seen the image above and tell me what it is they have invented…because that point of sale unit has always been there and a phone that sends an sms has always been there…you put a sim card in the point of sale unit and the two speak to each other…a bit of interface with a suitable programming interface and the job is done…i do realise that to a layman this is still a marvel…but i would never go to the press and claim to zimbabwe that my technology is the first in the world. Econet are the advanced guys in the country but they are also big liers…even they did not start the ecocash idea in zimbabwe…if you have been in zimbabwe long enough then you know that there was already “one wallet” and you dont even need to have another agent to handle the money but you can deal directly with your bank…so Econet comes and because they have muscle they stampeded on another company’s innovation…but it doesnt matter it suits them right…i am beginning to wonder if they have an influence on the media…they are now acting like a political party i know too well.

            1. Unfortunately, in this world we now live, the biggest winner is he who has the deep pockets to fund the marketing budget! There are very few things that can be called innovation work, the rest is copy and perfect. Examples include Facebook (remember myspace), Samsung (Apple??),

              1. “The functionality is a first in the world and in Africa..”,

                this is the problem that i have with this article. I do not dispute that Masiiwa and his team are good business man.They beat everyone hands down. But innovative technologists? not when the scope of that claim is “the world” and “Africa” as they put it.

      2. I stand corrected, but in America they are not targeting the unbanked. Not even PayPal makes that claim! If their system works for the unbanked it is not by design but by someside effect. This is more advanced that America if you are the unbanked.

      3. yes first world has ths but thy nw noved to nfc technology hell japan had this for nearly a decade

    3. but ecocash doesnt work as usual econet took the zimbabwean route and choose to over subscribe a service beyond their built in network capacity so no im not sold let them fix issues tht result in me spending 20 min in trying to do something

      and also they r dopuble dipping by not allowing a direct teransfer into another person’s account but you first have to deposit in yours then trtansfer thus earning them double the amopunt thy shld charge

  2. I personally dont like Econet (But i liked their page, Hahaha) but i think they are going places, doing things, although they still dont value us the customers

  3. While these are welcome developments from Econet I can’t help shake the feeling that this reads like a fluff piece. That’s just me. I’ve grown to mistrust Econet.. A LOT!!

    1. the line “The functionality is a first in the world and in Africa” is all you need to know that this article is nothing short of propaganda

  4. How does it actually work? whats the use case what do you have to do to actually make the payment?

    1. …At point of sale, the customer initiates a “pay merchant” transaction
      from their EcoCash Wallet on their phone. The customer will then enter
      the merchant number and amount, and the EcoCash Terminal will print out a
      merchant copy to be signed by the customer and to keep for their

  5. econet taking over.. kwasara web portal so that the pay-pal restricted use in zim doesnt hinder ecommerce capabilities of zim web presence

  6. Another shenanigan from econet financial services broadband wireless, does anyone really know what they do anymore?

  7. Definetely progressive but not a first in Africa on in the world.Jeez this is a service rolled out by Comvia based in India over the cloud (SaaS) software as a service,

  8. “The functionality is a first in the world and in Africa…” Wow!! As much as I would want this to be true, it’s sadly NOT. Near Field Communication (NFC) has been around for some years now. Nokia manufactured the first NFC phone back in 2006. Econet should stop making such negligent misrepresentations.

  9. Office Expedience Chikomba from Sadza growth-point used to sell airtime on the street – until Ecocash started selling airtime for cheaper, and offering free sms too! His business took a knock. But being the resilient Zimbo that he is, Office decided to move to sweets, freezits, bubblegum and maputi. And business went quite well, as people spent the spare change that they had left from the supermarket. But now Ecocash will be handling that too, so no more spare change for people to spend. POOR OLD OFFICE!

  10. Eco-cash trying to drive innovation. I hope their system doesn’t have vulnerabilities e.g. remote USSD attacks!

  11. yep i’m late to the party as always, but again here is my criticism: Simple technology and concept used here, which can be achieved by just 2 classes of less than 100 lines of code each (No bragging here: I have developed a similar concept myself for a POC). First i the world, maybe but the rest of the world has fully functional VISAs, MasterCards, American Express, Paypal etc and therefore not much of a need for Ecocash or similar concepts.
    Finally ECONET needs to improve on capacity haandling of Ecocash; It just doesn’t work well during busy hours. Needs too many retries to get it through. Now adding more load to an already overloaded service spells disaster. Watch this space 🙂

  12. rubbish how is it any good when it takes an average of 15 min to do a simple ecocash transaction.ngavagadzirise network capacity yavo so that ecocash actually works not spending 20 min to do a simple thing


  13. Well done EcoCash but its not a first. These types of payments have been in Nigeria since early April 2012.
    Concern Shoko may be you need to visit any Shoprite location in Lagos, Nigeria or any Total petrol station and many other retailers.
    A good example would be Stanbic Mobile Money see this (note I just did a web search and found him).

    Stanbic did not pay even 50% of $500 USD per pos terminal, this I can guarantee you.

  14. this is amazing econet well done and keep it up , you are making it easy for everyone to transfer money at any time and anywhere.

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