Mobile money, Zim’s wild, wild West

Mobile money, Zim’s wild, wild West

Government’s directive to suspend key operational features of mobile money transfer (MMT) platforms took many Zimbabweans by surprise. Authorities ordered MMTs to suspend agent lines and convert all merchant lines into one-way channels where only payments can be made and suspend withdrawals. “Cashing out” would be done through banks, ostensibly to stop large sums of money from being offloaded onto the black market. Government has argued that it has “impeccable evidence” that MMTs have become prominent platforms for “malpractices, criminality and economic sabotage”. Authorities have blamed the weakening of the Zimbabwe dollar against major trading currencies on illicit trading of the currency via electronic transfers. The order inadvertently fomented confusion in the market as it was initially interpreted to mean that all mobile money transactions had been suspended indefinitely. Millions of Zimbabweans are dependent on mobile money for their daily transactions. Physical cash remains scarce, while alternative payment platforms such as point of sale (POS) machines remain uncommon for most small traders. Latest figures from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) show that over 82 percent of all payments in the country go through mobile phones, accounting for over 29 million transactions every week. There are over 7,6 million active mobile money accounts, according to POTRAZ. Over $12,1 billion worth of transactions were processed through mobile money platforms during the first three months of this year, official data shows. It came as no surprise then that many were taken aback by the latest order. Authorities have always had a love-hate relationship with ...
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