In September last year I went to Botswana with some colleagues. We went via road. We did not have any cash on us except some hard currency we would use in Botswana if our bank debit cards failed for any reason. Using hard currency in Zimbabwe is never an option.
It’s funny that just a few months ago ordinary bank debit cards issued in Zimbabwe still worked outside our borders (albeit with crazy limits)- now most banks have disabled their cards from processing international payments. If you want to transact online or outside Zimbabwe then you have to apply for a special card which you pre-fund with real USD.
I wonder why our bank statements declare that we have USD in our accounts when really the bank itself acknowledges the RTGS money and USD to be night and day just by having a pre-funded card product. Anyway, I digress…
On our way to Botswana we decided to try out the then new Ecocash to;ll gate payment facility. It worked smoothly and allowed us to take less time at the toll gate than would be possible if swiping or even paying cash if change would be involved. On our way back we stuck to using Ecocash for toll gates not because we were still testing but because it was smooth and fast.
On our way back is when our lack of bond cash really inconvenienced us. We had bought a few items and had duty to pay as well as the other little fees that were due to ZIMRA. Unfortunately on that day our bank (at least the account that had money) was having ‘system challenges.’ We thought, oh good thing we have money in Ecocash. That was not a good thing, ZIMRA and Ecocash were not talking to each other.
At that time ZIMRA and Ecocash were not integrated. We ended up taking longer at the Plumtree border although it was literally empty, no queues whatsoever. We had to call the office to have people move money from some other account to another account via another account just so we could swipe for the duty with some other bank card we had on us.
ZIMRA Now Accepts Ecocash
It’s a good thing now that ZIMRA and Ecocash are now integrated. I don’t know who was being a hot head between the two of them but that hot headedness sure inconvenienced us on that day. Ultimately, I place the responsibility on ZIMRA because we are their clients (they call us clients). We are more than clients really, we are people who are parting with portions of their income because those with the powers to make laws declared that we should.
Paying taxes is a painful thing particularly when you see your money being abused to buy cars for chiefs for example who are nothing but the continuance of a repressive colonial institution. ZIMRA then has to make sure that fulfillment of this painful obligation is as smooth as possible. It’s good to know that they have done the sensible thing and integrated with Ecocash.
Why Is It Sensible To Integrate With Ecocash
The cash crisis has forced Zimbabwe to go electronic when it comes to transactions. The RBZ reports that more than 96% of transactions in Zimbabwe are now being done electronically. In terms of number of transactions, mobile money is the biggest thing. It accounts for above 75% of the transactions. Ecocash dominates the mobile money space with a share of above 90%. It’s crazy kuvharira Ecocash panze (shutting Ecocash out).
Zimbabwe is predominantly an informal economy. If ZIMRA wanted to capture revenue from this informal sector then they could not ignore Ecocash. It seems they now want that informal money In many ways, Ecocash has replaced cash as the medium of exchange in the informal space. The only thing currently that could dent this is the recently launched Steward Bank Kwenga which makes it affordable for someone with a musika (stall) to accept swipe.
Even with kwenga in the mix, Ecocash will remain strong because much more people have Ecocash than those that have a debit card to swipe with.