Zim forcing companies to innovate in payments – Nyaradzo introduces Sahwira Connect Card

Leonard Sengere Avatar

The proverb goes, ‘a stitch in time saves nine.’ This no doubt applies to medical care more than anything else. Hence why the wise ancestors used stitches as an example. However, they could have said ‘a dollar in time is like a million’ and it still would have had the same impact.

Am I really giving the ancestors notes on how they should have written proverbs? Yes, yes I am. Mine doesn’t rhyme though.

Where was I? Oh, a dollar in time. See, a dollar is not the paper you hold in your hand. It is more than that. A dollar is a unit of trade and represents all that it can be exchanged for. It can mean a meal, medicine, shelter, transport or even mvura yemuteuro (holy water). 

One dollar whilst you’re stranded by the roadside is worth way more than $100 when you’re sat in your home. 

This reality has brought about financial technology advancements. Mobile money allowed us to send a dollar in time to relatives across the country. That’s why EcoCash became an instant hit when it was launched.

Insurance and mobile money

Other industries took advantage of this and the insurance industry in particular benefited from it. Whenever someone needs to make a claim to an insurance company, it means there is a crisis. A crisis means a payout is needed as quickly as possible and mobile money allows for that.

Banks could not be the solution even though they were the primary financial services solution way before mobile money was a thing. 

The bank account opening process is too complex for most Zimbabweans who remain without one today. The other, more important benefit of mobile money is the immediacy with which transactions can clear. A mobile money transaction can reflect in the recipient’s account within seconds whilst an RTGS transfer can take days.

For someone who has just lost a close relative and needs to make burial arrangements, the faster mobile money services are the obvious choice. Except the government messed that all up.

Mobile money limits

In its dogged determination to catch every single person misusing EcoCash, the Zimbabwean government decided that crippling mobile money for everyone else was an acceptable trade-off. 

Now, for the Zimbo looking to receive an insurance payout so they can buy groceries for a funeral, mobile money is no longer an option.

First the govt limited companies’ ability to transfer funds out via mobile money. Making it impossible for insurance companies to make payouts via mobile money.

Then they limited the amount individuals’ could spend or transfer out in a day. The maximum that individuals can send to other individuals in one transaction is only ZW$20,000 (around US$40). The weekly limit being ZW$70,000 (US$146).

The limit on person to business transactions is a similarly paltry ZW$50,000 (US$104) per transaction and $100,000 (US$208)  per week.

This simply won’t do for most. Those amounts are not enough even for just funeral groceries. For one, most of the groceries that are needed, like goats and chickens can be sourced kumaraini (in the neighbourhoods) where the US$40 limit is truly limiting. 

All this means the type of bank account that most Zimbabweans have is just not good enough to use for insurance purposes.

This makes insurance companies look bad

The crippling of mobile money means insurance payouts can only be done via bank transfer. That means recipients who were used to near instantaneous receipts now have to contend with payouts taking days to reflect in their accounts in some cases.

That is especially the case when the claimant does not bank with the same bank as the insurance company. An internal transfer can take hours to reflect but an RTGS transfer can take days, especially if it has to be made on a Friday after the RTGS cutoff at around 11am. 

What about ZIPIT? Unfortunately, ZIPIT is considered mobile banking and has the same limits as those placed on mobile money. 

All this leads to some claimants burying their relatives before they get the funeral service payouts they subscribed to. Some end up feeling like insurance is a scam even though in this case it’s really not insurance companies’ fault. 

Now, when you consider that most Zimbos don’t even have bank accounts you can see how this affects insurance companies’ business. 

Some claimants subscribed to, say, funeral insurance back when mobile money was a viable option. Now, some are being told to open bank accounts right at the point that they need insurance payouts. Imagine that. That doesn’t make for satisfied customers.

Nyaradzo’s Sahwira Connect Card

Rather than try to tell grieving clients that it’s really the RBZ’s fault, Nyaradzo decided to take matters into their own hands.

They came up with the Sahwira Connect Card which clients are issued with in the event that they have to make a claim. They say the card is for funeral grocery allowances. 

Nyaradzo deposits the payout into it and they promise that the funds will reflect within 24 hours of the claim being made. 

That’s not as good as near instantaneous mobile money transfers but it’s significantly better than RTGS transfers. I imagine they say 24 hours to give themselves some leeway but the actual times will probably be only a few hours in most cases.

This is interesting because Nyaradzo has accounts with all commercial banks in the country, except Standard Chartered which is on its way out. This means they can effectively utilise internal transfers for all their clients, reducing the time needed for funds to reflect in clients’ accounts.

The 24 hours promised with the card can be promised just the same with internal transfers. If that’s the case, why is the card necessary?

Why the card?

I can tell you from experience that managing a bank account is a lot of work. I can only imagine how the Nyaradzo finance team, which has to deal with millions of clients and 14 bank accounts, feels.

Getting all or at least a significant number of clients to use the card would simplify their jobs. It would mean effectively managing just one bank account. 

We are not sure which financial services provider they are working with and will update you when we get responses. However, whatever arrangement they have allows for the cards to be activated, be able to receive funds and swipe all within 24 hours.

That’s impressive because usually, insurance companies do not take clients’ bank details on registration. They usually ask for that information when a claim is made and a payout needs to be made.

So, Nyaradzo has a fast turnaround time. Makes one wonder if the card is tied to a bank account or a mobile wallet. The 24 hour promise means it’s probably tied to a bank account.

I don’t think the card is personalised, unless Nyaradzo pre-made cards for all their clients which is highly unlikely. So, the card should be similar to the bank lite account cards which we are used to.

Nyaradzo shouldn’t have to do this

In an ideal environment, Nyaradzo wouldn’t have to come up with the Sahwira Connect Card. The banking and payments sectors should be good enough to handle the kinds of transactions Nyaradzo makes.

Just imagine this card coming out at a time when clients could opt to get their payouts via mobile money near instantaneously. We wouldn’t be nearly as excited about the card.

Alas that’s the Zimbabwe we live in. Too many companies have to go beyond their core competencies to come up with solutions that already exist but are crippled in some way.

That is the case for most companies when it comes to payments especially. The problem is only getting worse as the economy continues to prefer cash as it dollarise.

So, to the entrepreneur out there, this space is begging for solutions. 

Grand ambitions for the card?

In Nyaradzo’s case, there could be grander ambitions for the card. After all, one can use the card after the funeral business. Maybe they want clients to use it to purchase furniture from their manufacturing department.

We still don’t know just how much clients will be able to do with the cards. Can they deposit or withdraw funds from the card? Can they transfer the money from the account that’s tied to the card? We’ll let you know when we get the answers.

If it allows for that, it would become an easy way for their clients to get a bank account. The question then becomes, does Nyaradzo get a piece of the transaction fees whenever someone uses the card to transact?

Before the card, once Nyaradzo made a payout they had no further ways to extract revenue from their clients. This card could introduce Nyaradzo to the sweet bank charges and commissions that have been carrying the banking sector. 

Or at the very least, the card could work as a customer retention tool.



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  1. 20

    Can’t fault then for taking matters into their own hand definitely stitching innovation…I wonder what ipec has to say about this and whether it will be the norm

  2. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    It’s probably just a white label bank card, like those PF membership cards. Technically it would be possible to continue to use the card, beyond its original purpose, but you’d be the issuing banks client as they are the ones with banking licence.

  3. Shawn Tatenda Gorejena

    A stitch in time saves nine that’s very true innovation Nyaradzo has gone a long way in innovating the money crisis

  4. Unfocused Youth

    Can anyone provide any insights into how profitable Nyaradzo is???

    I’ve had this hunch recently that Nyaradzo is so flush with cash (i.e. ZWL$), that they are being forced to diversify their business. Because Nyaradzo are expanding like how Innscor was a few years back. They are entering new business ventures like Google – if it fails oh well type of vibes lol

    p.s. if anyone from Nyaradzo management reads this, please rebrand and form a holding company and separate your funeral policy business & other interests. I

    1. Unfocused Youth

      Also, if Nyaradzo listed on the ZSE, I’m inclined to believe that their ticker would perform really well.

  5. The Empress

    Well if you operate in a country where the authorities sometimes burn down the house in the name of killing a few rats.
    Then the only option left is to innovate like mad and then have sleepless nights wondering how your shiny new system is going to be be abused and how bad the fallout is going to be when the hammer falls .
    The card is a good idea but just using it for funerals is so limited so they might be tempted to expand the use of the card and nd then the RBZ is going to get involved

  6. Barf!

    Rampant inflation dictates getting money transferred quickly, so it can be put to some use, before its value has declined! This won’t happen with the USD, but the ZWD, ZWL, or whatever you want to call it, loses value by the minute. Fortunately, USD is far more stable, and will remain that way long after we’re all gone! It’ll be interesting to see when the next round of new notes comes about, and how long that lasts, along with how many zeros it will have as well!

  7. Ehm

    If Nyaradzo could help us understand why their funeral policies do not mature. Other companies after you only pay for 10 years and your policy matures, but with Nyaradzo you can pay for 45 years and if you fail to pay after the 45 years your policy lapses!

    1. Anonymous

      Say this I have always just wondered on my own about this but who to get the answer from?

    2. Joe

      Could you give a hint on such companies which ttheir policies mature after an earmarked space of time by siting some e.g.s

  8. Amos Mapfumo

    It is a good idea the card. But Nyaradzo must go a step further by giving out the usd. The money is required too bad to cover certain funeral expenses like buying mombe yechirariro. So letting the money stay in a bank more than an hour it will surely rot. Zim money is rotting par excellence

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