EcoCash will soon resume transfers to other mobile networks in Zimbabwe, after suspending them for more than 2 years citing anti-money laundering issues. The company sent out a message to its agents confirming the development today:
Ecocash will soon resume sending money across all networks. The transactions will be treated like any other unregistered cashouts on Econet lines.
This is great for a lot of non-Econet subscribers as they don’t need to keep a separate SIM just to receive EcoCash transfers. It’s also good for Econet as they will likely make more money in transfer fees plus the marketing opportunity coming from reaching a non-Econet customer. So why were the transfers suspended in the first place? Back in 2013 when we asked the Econet CEO, Douglas Mboweni, and this is what he told us:
Number 1 is we looked at the business case, and that was why we suspended it. And number 2, when you’re dealing with money there issues of money laundering. You have to know your customers. Now Econet can only know its customers and if we push money to other operator, we have no visibility of who that customer is. And so based on that fact that we require to know, end to end, the sender and the receiver we could not proceed sending money to people whose record we do not have.
If you’re wondering how much stronger the business case is now than it was back in 2013, our guess is that it’s not significantly different. Save ofcourse for the fact that revenues in the sector are at an all time low and understandably, the operator is in no position to be leaving money on the table.
On the Anti Money Laundering (AML) concerns that Econet and the regulators had, we wonder if these are fixed now. If anything AML concerns should have increased as elsewhere globally, where AML restrictions are getting tighter because of the terrorism problem.
So big is the AML issue that MTN was fined US $5.2 billion recently in Nigeria for not meeting the requirements. Econet itself recently moved to disconnect some subscribers, and in an explanation the CEO actually said: “Econet has been the most compliant operator when it comes to SIM registration requirements and its strict procedures have at times been a major source of complaints from customers, who sometimes claim that they are able to secure unregistered SIM cards from other operators on the black market.”
If the operator is informed of these black market lines enough for the CEO to bring it up in an official announcement, how then is the company more confident now than back in 2013 that AML is not an issue anymore?
An important distinction to make here is that these are transfers to mobile numbers and not directly to digital wallets. That is subscribers of the other networks will have to go to EcoCash agents to redeem the cash, as opposed to receiving it in their digital wallets like Telecash and OneWallet, something we hope the operators together will work towards.