Before the national switch deadline, we published an article that spoke of the parties that stood to gain from EcoCash’s demise. Ok, maybe demise isn’t the right word because even though EcoCash was being “asked” to join ZimSwitch as well facing the ZWL$5000 a day transaction limit which became ZWL$35000 a week, the company still has a significant presence in the payments space. That presence is however diminishing, the power in payments is with banks now because they offer their customers more financial flexibility. You are not going to face limits that are even close to what EcoCash has to abide by if you have a bank account.
In the article mentioned earlier banks, for the reasons stated above, were the top contenders to snap up customers looking for EcoCash alternatives. But it doesn’t seem like most banks have made the necessary strides to address a big problem.
Opening a bank account
As many of you know, opening a bank account isn’t the easiest thing to do. In most cases, you will have to go to a branch and get a list of requirements, takes application forms home, fill them out and then return with all the documentation.
The process is riddled with friction, to start it off with you have to go a branch. Fuel is expensive and the only petrol or diesel readily available is in USD. Which means that if one is able to get the fuel it’s used sparingly. Public transport is also a hassle, not all areas are served equally which results in long waits and time wasted.
To the best of my knowledge, there are three banks that offer an alternative way to apply for a full KYC bank account. Nedbank has an online platform where you can apply for an account and so does CBZ. Alternatively, you can contact CBZ and they will email you the application forms. You can then send back the filled-in forms and documents via email and then get an account number.
A bank that went even further is FBC, anyone can open an account using the FBC Bank app (Android, iOS). The system they are using is similar to the one they use for their insurance service Yako. All you’ll need is your full name, ID number, email, a selfie, address, signature and proof of residence, and all of that is done in the app.
Now, I am not saying that these systems are perfect, far from it. You’ll still need to go in and get your card and other things. But at least you’ll have an account number and you can start transacting. These platforms also cut the trips you’d traditionally make to open an account in half. Another upshot is that it only cost a data bundle and will consume a lot less time.
Other banks need to step it up
I guess the answer to ask the question “have the banks taken full advantage of the restrictions put on EcoCash?” is no. Three banks can’t offset the financial needs of millions.
There are many people who still rely on EcoCash their sole means of transacting. A good proportion of those people are in rural areas and the best way to getting them the services they need is by progressively lower the barriers to entry.