ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira gave his opening remarks of the Mobile money and digital payments conference that is happening today at Meikles Hotel. Before he started the official speech, he first passed a comment to the discussion that was held before his arrival. The discussion was on “Regulating Bank Charges and Mobile Money Tariffs – Balancing regulations and innovation”.
The minister started his comment with one sentence that caught many people off guard. He said, “Zimbabwe will never deal with cash shortages”. To some, this seemed absurd as the current state of the country seems to point to the fact that we are already dealing with cash shortages. However, there was more meaning behind what he had said so he expanded with the following.
Why will we never deal with cash shortages in Zimbabwe? he asked. Some Zimbabwean farmers produce a lot of tobacco and get paid around $3 per kg. Imagine the number of tobacco farmers in the country and how much they produce. It’s a lot and they all say that they want to get paid in cash. So even if money was printed so much such that there’s no cash shortage, the farmers would still not be able to be paid in cash because the amount is a lot.
This is especially true considering that there are other farmers that produce grains and they are in their bumper harvest now so imagine how much the amount would become. After giving this scenario, the minister of ICT then said “This shows that people have a confidence problem. We don’t have confidence in the products (mobile money platforms) that we are producing”.
He further explained by showing that the country needs to have trust worthy and reliable mobile payment solutions so that people will have confidence in receiving money in that form instead of getting cash. Addressing the issue of being able to print enough cash for the farmers alone, he said: “The challenge can be solved by technology, education and confidence in a system that works, will work anywhere and doesn’t charge them a lot.”
His first statement might sound like a contradiction if you take it as an absolute that the country will never deal with cash shortages. However, if you look at it in the view of the country having a confidence problem then it makes sense. The minister gave examples of things that could happen in order for Zimbabwe to deal with the confidence problem.
If tomorrow everyone wakes up and they’re notified that all service station payments will attract a discount if we use a digital payment solution then people will run to adopt these technologies. Another example could be that all tobacco farmers that sell their tobacco at $3 per kg will get 20% extra if they get paid by a digital payment.
All these examples point out that regulators, sellers of goods, buyers of goods and mobile money platforms aren’t working together to provide incentives for people to use digital payments. Instead, the opposite is happening, when a person gets into a supermarket and wants to buy goods, they actually get a discount for using cash instead of the digital method.
All in all, the solution is in our hands but we just need to make it more attractive for people to consider using it. So in the end, it does make sense to say that “Zimbabwe will never deal with a cash shortage” because the country should deal with a confidence issue instead of the other one.