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“Sending” Money to South Africa

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A lot has changed since the crisis of 2008. Things are better now. I should know since back then I spend most of my time rationing my food supplies and waiting in line for everything from salt,bread, call slots and web pages to load.

Most of my time is spend at the gym now trying to avoid a pot belly and the internet on my phone is faster than the entire bandwidth our campus had back then.

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The law preventing Money Transfer agents like Western Union and MoneyGram from transferring money out of the country still remains though.

Various entities are coming up with more ingenious ways of tapping into the diaspora market. We have got the traditional money transfer agents that enable people abroad to send, their relatives and friends in Zimbabwe, money in a matter of minutes at reasonable costs.

New entrants like WorldRemit have partnered up with local mobile money provider EcoCash. There’s the Mukuru MasterCard that allows those in the diaspora to quickly send you money by loading it onto a card that they then send to you. Then there’s the partnership that Mukuru struck up with telecash to have money sent directly into your mobile wallet.

There have been no innovations for the reverse transaction however. The law has seen to it that businesses remain shackled in that regard. It may be even the reason why PayPal reportedly does not allow you to send money to your peers rather than a technical problem with PayPal itself.

At the surface the rules are reasonable: ever since we adopted the multi-currency regime we depend on other currencies for liquidity and we need to do all we can to stem the tide.

The problem however is that it is imports rather than you sending money to your stranded relative at Park Station that are the problem. The laws have not improved the amount of money sent by those in the Diaspora which has continued to plummet.

As is always the case in such situations the black market has pounced on the lack of an official solution. There are a number of illegal money transfer “agencies” at Road Port that allow you to send money to South Africa.

The Zimbabwean agent receives the money and sends a WhatsApp message to his counterpart in South Africa who then gives the equivalent in rand to your desired recipient just like a real Money Transfer agency.

They typically charge a steep price of R10 for every R100 you send but then what’s the alternative? The price is way better than the minimum $30 per transfer that my bank likes to charge me for international wires. Which is way above the international averages. The price is also comparable to Mukuru’s charges of 10% for inbound transfers.

While I agree with the need to prevent the outflow of cash given the prevailing liquidity crisis I don’t think outbound transfers are significant enough to warrant being banned nor does banning them stop the outflow.

It’s like with abortions, people still have them no matter what the law says. They risk falling prey to fraudsters as they desperately try to send money abroad. I think at least an exception must be made when people are sending money to countries in the SADC region.

How to send money to South Africa securely and cheaply

Nothing contained herein shall be construed to as being in anyway encouraging you to break the law.

The way some people use the Mukuru MasterCard gave me an idea on a channel for “sending” money to South Africa to my cousin who often buys items on credit on my behalf under his name. Why? Well the rates there are better than the extortionist rates they charge here.

  • Have the friend/relative you wish to send money to get a prepaid MasterCard from your preferred bank. FBC and BancABC both offer prepaid cards at reasonable rates. This requires a little foresight in advance but it is a critical step in the process.
  • The friend/relative should take the card with them when they leave the country.
  • Whenever you want to send your relative money just load their card.
  • They can “receive” the money by withdrawing the Rand equivalent at Visa and MasterCard ATMs that are ubiquitous in South Africa.

This way you get to change your money at official exchange rates as well-these are usually better than the road rates. Your relative can also avoid falling prey to robbery by swiping to pay instead of withdrawing the money and carrying cash around.

I know I am awesome. Right?! And just in case you are wondering, it is legal.


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5 thoughts on ““Sending” Money to South Africa

  1. “There are a number of illegal money transfer “agencies” at Road Port that allow you to send money to South Africa.
    The Zimbabwean agent receives the money and sends a WhatsApp message to his counterpart in South Africa who then gives the equivalent in rand to your desired recipient just like a real Money Transfer agency” – how is this illegal? No money is being repatriated outside the country. $100 in Zim will be similar to R1100 here. The FBC and BancABC trick sends money outside the country and that process will be felt on currency reserves. The Roadport system does not as it is nowhere near any banking system. Am not a financial expert but sending a message to someone here to say go pick up from this guy is not illegal. It is a loophole being exploited like watching Netflix in your home

    1. You are kidding right? Money transfer agents work exactily as you have described. Your expat relative who wishes to send you money pays at some foreign office in say Atlanta and you go and “receive” the money at the local office in Harare. They don’t actually send the money physically which is exactily what the fellows at Roadport are doing. They do however keep intercompany accounts that are settled periodically, in the case of the illegals at RoadPort they send money via buses to their counterparts in South Africa to replentish their reserves.

      Such clever activities are prevented under the Money Laundering Act http://www.issafrica.org/cdct/mainpages/pdf/Money%20Laundering/Legislation/Zimbabwe/ZIMBABWE%20Notes%20on%20Anti-ML%20Laws.pdf The Banking Act , The Criminal Codification Act and like a gazillion other laws. There thousands of Case Laws against such practices. I mean there are entire sections in the Banking Act dedicated to regulating and preventing the operation of unlicensed Money Transfer Agents. In case you are wondering activities that are against the law are ILLEGAL!

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