Steward Bank announced via Tweeter and Facebook a new product line that they are calling Diaspora Banking. The service is targeting Zimbabwean in the Diaspora to open any of the four Diaspora account products namely the Diaspora Current Account, Diaspora Savings Account, Diaspora Fixed Deposit Account and the Diaspora EcoCash Banking Services. The Diaspora EcoCash banking is the most interesting at this stage as, we hoped, would turn EcoCash into an inbound (to Zimbabwe), global mobile money transfer service and compete with global money transfer agencies like Western Union and Moneygram. Part of their press release to us says:
Customers will be able to make direct payments through their EcoCash if they have an Econet roaming line that has been activated. Customers will be able to make payments to various merchants and municipal offices across the country, as well as bill payments for services such as DSTV and insurance.
However, unlike Telecel that is interoperable (as they claim) with already established international money transfer agents, the Diaspora EcoCash service offered by Steward Bank makes use of Econet’s roaming services which kinda makes the whole process complicated. Firstly, how does a person living overseas get an Econet roaming line? Again, who needs a roaming line if they are going to live in the UK for 5 years? Probably this service will work well with people who travel in and out of Zimbabwe for extended periods. But already, people who travel to SA, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana on roaming can access EcoCash services with or without Sterward Bank. Mind you, roaming to SA, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana in the cheapest roaming availble Wider international roaming (85 countries) is expensive and only available Business Partner Premium which has the following requierments:
- Complete a roaming application form and
- Pay a roaming deposit
- Roaming will be activated within 24 hours of customer fulfilling the necessary requirements
- Alternatively, you can email your requests to email@example.com
Roaming deposits are as follows:
- Individuals – USD 6 per day and $200 for permanent roaming
- Corporates – USD 10 per day and $300 for permanent
So which ever way we look at it, it’s still difficult for Zimbabweans living in the diaspora (outside Southern Africa) to send remittances via EcoCash. People would have, for a change, loved to cash-out diaspora funds from an EcoCash agent at Copacabana and ditch the queues and forms at Moneygram. But this doesn’t look to be happening soon, EcoCash component of the Diaspora Banking on offer at Steward Bank is not as refined to get excited about it. Here’s a download link to the full press release from Steward Bank.