The second lockdown has, like the first, caused the temporary and even permanent closure of outlets and branches nationwide. The impact of this on small businesses in the country is immeasurable and would be difficult to properly quantify given the largely informal nature of Zimbabwe’s economy. However, there are other industries that have recorded the impact of COVID and one of those is the banking sector.
In a report by Bloomberg, Zimbabwean Banks have closed 17% of their branches because of the coronavirus pandemic. Of the 300 that were in operation last year, 10% have been permanently closed. In the second lockdown, there have been an additional 23 temporary branch closures.
The temporary closures have come even after banks were given “essential service” status and leads many to believe that some of those closers may be permanent.
“There is a high possibility that some may never be re-opened in the foreseeable future”Shepherd Ngandu, Assistant Secretary- General, Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union
In the same report by Bloomberg, The Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU) estimated that 100 workers were made redundant last year. The year before, 300 of 4000 employees in the sector were dismissed which is five times more than the figure for 2018.
Last year’s numbers are pretty low considering most banks were aggressively pushing customers on to digital services. BancABC’s Branch X, Standbic Bank zero-rating it’s banking platforms are examples of the concerted efforts banks are trying to make to keep their customers’ serviced where ever they are.
As with anything launched, the banks are beginning to improve upon digital services because some have realised that this is the new normal and we won’t be going back to the way things were. This could result in more people losing their employment in the sector.
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