A report in the Herald has stated that a commercial agreement has been reached between money transfer services Western Union and Econet Wireless which will allow people to send money from abroad straight into EcoCash wallets.
Under this new arrangement there will be no need to visit a Western Union branch as the money sent can be cashed out at any EcoCash agent. According to Mr Eddie Chibi, the chief sales officer for Econet Services who was quoted in the article, Econet and Western Union are currently working on the integration of their systems to pave way for this added benefit to the service.
This new development is certainly welcome when you consider how recipients of money through Western Union had to go to the specific “branches” at set times. With this new facility it’s a lot simpler to have money deposited in your mobile wallet which you can use for other transactions, besides the added benefit of being able to retrieve it at the numerous EcoCash agents.
While this new development is being trumpeted, it gets you wondering how Econet, through EcoCash seems to be out to redefine “financial inclusion”. Besides the grip it now has on mobile financial services, its encroachment into money remittances will set it up to handle not only the bulk of money that is circulating in the economy but the precious monetary inflows from the diaspora.
Zimbabwe is currently groaning under the pressures of a cash strapped economy and it would seem that Econet is determined to earn as much as possible off the cash available or coming in. Without a lot of significant capital inflows, diasporan remittances are an even bigger deal in this environment.
Econet has, through EcoCash, tried in the past couple of months to get a money remittance product going in the diaspora through attempts in South Africa and more recently in the United Kingdom. Its financial subsidiary Steward Bank has also had a crack at it with its Diaspora Banking Product Suite. Then of course there is its tango with another money remittance service, World Remit.
Will there be other agreements with other “money merchants” and service deliverers? If they are approached can they say no to the allure of an established platform with such a subscriber base? While we might be convinced that we have a competitive financial services sector, the work being done by one company in controlling monetary circulation seems to suggest otherwise.