The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) today released the Mid Term Monetary Policy Statement which highlighted the events of the previous year and this one. In that statement, there was an interesting revelation. The RBZ has acquired or is set to acquire a 15% stake in the national payments switch, Zimswitch.
“The Bank is proceeding to acquire 15% shareholding in ZimswitchRBZ Mid-Term Monetary Policy Statement
Technologies (Private) Limited in order to spearhead interoperability of
infrastructure and connection protocols of mobile money transmission
providers and mobile banking providers through the national payment
switch and enhance monitoring and surveillance of the financial system in Zimbabwe.”
Now, this is both shocking and it isn’t (if that makes sense) because if you remember last year at around this time Zimswitch was anointed as the national payments switch by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. This meant that any financial institution that wasn’t part of the Zimswitch network has to bend the knee to the company.
The establishment most affected by this was EcoCash which had existed for the longest time as an independent outlier. This however ended when SI 80 of 2020 mandated interoperability or in other words, all wallets and accounts under the Zimbabwean sky had to be able to communicate with one another.
On the RBZ side of things, Zimswitch as the national switch makes sense because it already had a relationship with the banks seeing as the company is owned and was started by the banks. Mobile Money operators like OneMoney and Telecash were already on board so as they say this was a route one decision.
However, I didn’t foresee that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) would go as far as to take a piece of Zimswitch. I don’t know about you and maybe there are some financial market soothsayers who saw this coming but this is (at least in my opinion) very unusual.
Stranger still is when we look at the reasons for the acquisition and the one that I am sure stood out to many is the line that reads “enhance monitoring and surveillance of the financial system in Zimbabwe“. This to me suggests that the RBZ is tightening its grip on the financial sector even more and as we saw with EcoCash being forced to pull its Bank-to-Wallet promotion, the saga with mobile money might also not be over.
The full Mid-Term Monetary Policy Statement is in the link below: