EcoCash has lost 3.1 million customers since 2020, what or who is to blame?

Leonard Sengere Avatar

In Zimbabwe Coke refers either to all fizzy drinks or just to a particular soft drink. The same goes for EcoCash and mobile money. There is competition in the mobile money sector but for most, EcoCash is synonymous with mobile money.

We are all aware that that dominance ended up being a curse for EcoCash. The government vowed to clip their wings and you could say they managed to clip those wings a bit.

Watching that whole episode makes one understand why Google does not want you saying you ‘Googled’ something. They want you to say you searched for it.

Being synonymous with ‘search’ hurts the argument that they are not a monopoly. EcoCash should have been equally worried about people saying ‘I’ll EcoCash you the money.’

EcoCash bleeding subscribers

The results of the government’s efforts to clip EcoCash’s wings can be seen in EcoCash’s customer counts. As reported by EcoCash themselves, this was the subscriber movement from 2020.

  • 2020 – 10.8 million
  • 2021 – 8.4 million
  • 2022 – 7.7 million

This means EcoCash has lost 3.1 million subscribers (29%) since 2020. That’s 700,000 lost from 2021 to 2022. Which is a lot.

We should remember though that these figures are for registered customers, not necessarily active customers.

We know that EcoCash had 6.8 million active customers in December 2019 according to Potraz, just 2 months before the reported 10.8 million above. The absolute numbers may be lower but the percentage drops should be similar.

Some of the reasons for this loss of customers are; the directive to limit individuals to just one account, the regulator-assisted collapse of the agent network, low upper limits placed on mobile money transactions, the collapse of the ZW$ and the resultant move to USD cash by the public, the emergence of competition in what was EcoCash’s stronghold – remittances.

Most of the reasons above stemmed from the regulators’ actions. However, we cannot rule out that EcoCash itself could have done better.

To remember though is that the loss of customers does not necessarily mean a drop in transactions. In fact, EcoCash transactions accounted for 81% of all national payment systems transaction volumes, up from 80% in 2021.

However, in terms of values there was a drop from 8% to 6% of national payment systems values. Indicating that the transaction limits imposed by the government led to smaller but more frequent transactions.

Can EcoCash reverse the trend?

EcoCash really has to be proactive and innovative to stem the tide. Their chances of getting some of the adverse regulations overturned are slim to none.

One mobile money account per individual is here to stay. The government would rather outlaw mobile money outright than let EcoCash build out its old and extensive agent network. Transaction limits are likely par of the course going forward.

The collapse of the ZW$ has been a huge challenge too. This has been coupled with an acute shortage of the ZWD in the market and the result has been rapid dollarisation. In the USD world, services like EcoCash’s are not essential. Cash is king in that world.

That may be but the reality is that the USD still has to exchange hands and it gets really inconvenient to have to do that in person every time like dealing in cash necessitates. So, the demand for USD remittance grew as USD use increased.

While EcoCash licked its wounds after a lengthy sparring session with the regulator, competition sprang up and took a piece of the USD domestic remittance pie. Such that when EcoCash re-entered the space, they felt like just one of many competitors, no longer the obvious choice like they were in the past.

We can blame the government for the collapse of the ZWD but that doesn’t explain how EcoCash lost some ground in the remittance space. Yes, EcoCash was unfairly targeted at times and they were distracted, trying to fight for survival but still.

Now they have to fight off the competition and the government that slapped a high 4% tax on those USD remittances.

Catch them young

The reality is that EcoCash has been close to saturating the market for years. Even after losing 3.1 million subscribers since 2020, they still have 92% of the adult population. Getting back the 3.1 million from that demographic is nigh impossible at this moment.

So, EcoCash is looking to the youth. Exactly a month ago they launched the EcoCash Junior wallet, a mobile wallet for children between 9 and 18 years of age.

This should get them a few new customers. After all, Zimbabwe has a young core, with our median age being around 18 it makes sense to target the young ones. Time will tell just how clever an idea Junior wallet was.

How has your EcoCash use changed?

Most of us used EcoCash extensively at some point. Many of us don’t use it like that anymore. Apparently, 3.1 million of us actually closed our accounts. What changed? For those that stuck around, how has your usage changed? Do let us know in the comments below.

Also read:

EcoCash Junior wallet for 9-18 year olds is excellent, it was long overdue

EcoCash FCA now cheaper to use, no more cash in/cash out taxes



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  1. Mabhena

    Ecocash has to work harder to win some of us back who still have a bad taste in our mouths from literally having had to beg their agents for cash outs until we gave up. They should just rebrand because many people still subconsciously associate Ecocash with some of the worst inconveniences of the peak of the rtgs era.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      That’s a good point. Some of the shenanigans their agents were up to no doubt affected many people’s perception of the service. I don’t know about rebranding but they have to go on some charm offensive. They cannot ignore how terribly their agents treated customers at some point, it doesn’t matter that they did not sanction that behaviour, the agents still flew the EcoCash flag.

  2. Anonymous

    1. Too expensive
    2. Having to close multiple lines
    3. Bad customer service

    1. Leonard Sengere

      -I see. Competition made them fall in line on cost, in the USD remittance space at least. But the taxes are not helping.
      -The multiple lines ship sailed and they did not have anything to do with that but they have to face the consequences.
      -The bad customer service is entirely on them.
      -Looks like all they can improve on on your list is customer service. Would that be enough to have you use EcoCash like you did before?

  3. Anonymous

    major blow to ecocash was the introduction of USD – Bond parallel rates, operating on a multi currency system is not good at all. Some organisations are failing to get hand in hand with Zim because of inconsistent policies and exchange rates

    1. Leonard Sengere

      The currency situation was hard on them. There’s not much they could do about that, except maybe anticipate what kind of need would be created by it and evolve EcoCash to meet it.
      Inconsistent policies are unfortunately the way of life in Zimbabwe.

  4. D.K.

    To say Ecocash lost customers would not be correct. A lost customer is one who voluntarily goes to close an account. Those 3.1 million are actually people who had multiple accounts which may have been automatically closed by the system after they were asked to choose which one account to keep. So, the 3.1million individuals or entities still have an Ecocash account. As a nation, we should not forget that Ecocash averted a national financial catastrophe that could have had security implications when physical cash was not available or easily available, and it became the major way of paying for almost anything.

    1. Tawanda

      I agree with you and also there is issue of migration. I know 3 of my friends who left the country in 2021. Two of them were die hard fans of anything Econet the other one was just an MNO prostitute but he had an ecocash account too

    2. Tinashe Nyahasha

      I don’t agree here. A lost customer is a lost customer regardless of how you lose them: They were your customer but now you lost them. What would not be accurate is say customers fled EcoCash when referring to those whose accounts were closed as a result of regulatory stuff. It’s actually important for EcoCash to view this as a loss in customers so it gives them a kick to do something about it. If they mop and weep over how unfair it is that will be their death.

      1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

        You are confusing a customer with an account. If you have 5 ecocash accounts, you are still 1 customer, but, ecocash might count you as 5. So, if you are forced to close 4, you are still a customer, but you will be counted as 4 “lost customers”.

        It also does matter how you lost your customer, so you don’t waste energy with “a lost customer, is a lost customer”. You can’t reverse regulations. You can’t bring a customer who left the country back. You can’t resurrect a dead customer (oh, yes, Ecocash customers are not immortal).

    3. Leonard Sengere

      I agree that it’s possible that a good number of the ‘lost customers’ were simply those individuals who had multiple accounts being forced to use just one. You will recall that that whole exercise happened in Q3 2020. That means it happened in EcoCash’s year ending February 2021. Yet we find that going from 2021 to 2022, EcoCash lost a further 700,000. There were no people with multiple accounts in that year so the loss had to be because of something else.

      And yes, you’re right, EcoCash was the stitch that saved 9 that time. It would have been a disaster had EcoCash not been there.

  5. Tawanda

    I agree with you and also there is issue of migration. I know 3 of my friends who left the country in 2021. Two of them were die hard fans of anything Econet the other one was just an MNO prostitute but he had an ecocash account too

    1. D.K.

      Besides just emptying the wallets, how many of those who leave the country ever bother to notify Ecocash, or even close the next number?

  6. Ecocash na Coke

    Ok before i finish reading the article,lets correct something here kuti mobile money yese inonzi ecocash or all fizzy is coke???? Noooo haneno kwamunogara

    1. D.K.

      Ndozvazviri matiri kuruzhinji muZimbabwe.

    2. Imwe Mbeu

      Ndatochinzwirawo pano 😂

    3. Hatizi tese mabharanzi

      techzim add a like button, I want to like this reply

    4. Gamu Murume

      Aithor be treating Chitungwiza seZimbabwe 🚮

      1. Gamu Murume

        Author 😁

      2. Leonard Sengere

        😂 Ko Chitungwiza ndoZimbabwe yacho ka.

    5. Leonard Sengere

      🤣🤣🤣 Amana where do you live. Where I am ‘ndatengerwa coke’ does not necessarily mean it was Coca Cola. And EcoCash/yemufoni is what mobile money is called here even when it’s OneMoney, which is rarely the case, but still.

      1. Tawanda

        At shake shake building

        1. Leonard Sengere

          Hahaha, where is Shake Shake building?

          1. Tawanda

            It’s a conveniently located building just before you get in town if you’re coming from Bulawayo😂. It’s sort of in and out of town, mean we can be forgiven for being out of touch with what’s on the ground in the city center but also ironically preaching a reality we can imagine to be on the ground and pass it as fact😜

  7. Gamue Murume

    Ini hangu maCharges arkuremera wallet & yeah I think since most peers have crossed to our neighbors that means ecocash lost them too

  8. Nyatiimhenyu

    Econet is to blame especially maAgents avo, nyangwe vakati kutumira US$ mahara better ndonorohwa mari neMukuru

  9. 20

    Let’s be honest alot of us were using eco to change money.
    Furthermore ecocash was really birthed by the lack of physical notes and their closed system from zipit. Now that zipit is more reliable and you freely move between the two and zipit is cheaper. There’s no real need anymore.if I already have a bank account and I can transfer more easily bank to bank….then I don’t need the extra step for ecocash
    Also if the rates are more stable alot of ppl just leave the money where it is in the bank and save on transfer fees.
    Zipit failures were really ecocash gains

    1. Tawanda

      Your assumption is ecocash became dominant during the cash crisis which is wrong. Ecocash had been dominant since 2012. It’s major selling point was that you could turn left, right, locate an agent and cash out your 4bucks now that’s something that is missing from the current set up. If they can work around that I bet ecocash will partially return to it’s former glory.

  10. 20

    You have answered the question if cash is no longer required and most salaries go into a bank account then. What’s the position of ecocash when there’s already cheaper alternatives. Plus lite accounts are available….let’s say I have a posb account and I want to send money to my rural relatives I would just push them to get a lite accounts….save in charges and move on….

    1. Tawanda

      I didn’t say cash is no longer required. I said Ecocash currently doesn’t have as many active agents to disburse cash as in 2013. The fact that they had agents every 5 meters in town made them stand out. People still need that.

  11. 20

    Ppl still need cash?

    1. Tawanda

      As long as we still have the current transport system it means at the very least people still need to be bailed out with 3USD cash outs.

  12. Kris

    As Ecocash got bigger and bigger, Econet became more and more arrogant. They had too much captive business, for a long time they didn’t need to move a muscle to make money. That was the beginning of their downfall. We continued to use Ecocash grudgingly, but soon as the competition came in we jumped ship. We refused to remain captive.

    There was a time they forced you liquidate your USD remittance. If you refused they would simply tell you we don’t have USD cash. Now they are facing the consequences. Their image needs a lot of work to improve.

  13. Samaita

    Teererai vafana. The drop in ACTIVE ACCOUNTS was in part due to Ecocash being forced to join the Zipit platform. 2. It was due to the 1 man 1 account directive. So it’s partly loss of customers and partly reduction in number of accounts. You are also forgetting that many many who had multiple Eco accounts opened bank accounts after the 1 man 1 account directive. I personally no longer need an Ecocash account. Those with Ecocash can now Zipit me directly from Ecocash. If I am paying someone my first option is bank to bank or bank to Ecocash. Strictly speaking yes, one can now do without Ecocash so long as they have Bank accounts which can also do mobile money.

    Look, Ecocash’s popularity was also partly due to the fact that many Zimbo’s didn’t have bank accounts; due to the cumbersome process of having one.

  14. Tom

    All plastic bag are Checkers it doesn’t matter if they are from picknpay or not ie S . Africa

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