Telecel, Zimbabwe’s second largest mobile network operator in terms of subscribers, has teamed up with ZimSwitch to provide mobile banking for Zimbabweans.
The service, in a country just emerging from 10 years of economic meltdown, is widely viewed as a huge breakthrough as far as technology is concerned in the country.
Telecel Zimbabwe Marketing Director, Obert Mandimika, said the joint venture with one of the country’s leading banks would enable banks to offer their customers an affordable and easy-to-use mobile banking facility that could change the face of banking in Zimbabwe.
Addressing journalists on Thursday (today) Mandimika said Telecel was proud to be the first mobile phone network in Zimbabwe to have a mobile banking platform available to the country’s banks and to ZimSwitch.
He said Telecel’s collaboration with ZimSwitch was the first such partnership in the world between a mobile phone operator and a financial switch.
“The platform is open to all banks. Telecel has chosen to facilitate the provisioning of this extremely useful service through its fast expanding network,” said Mandimika.
He said Telecel, with wide network coverage in all major population centres around Zimbabwe, embarked on a massive investment aimed at covering the last rural outposts that were not yet covered.
The banking service would not only benefit banks and their existing customers but those who previously had no bank account, including those in rural areas who could now register easily for mobile banking. This would enable them to use their cellphones to transfer or send money to other people, to deposit and withdraw money and to pay for goods and services.
Several banks linked to Zimswitch such as CABS, the People’s Own Savings Bank and Interfin Bank witnessed the unveiling of the new technology
ZimSwitch business development manager Adam Roscoe said another eight banking institutions were expected to go live with their mobile banking service within the next two months.
Telecel is providing the mobile banking platform while ZimSwitch is in turn providing the link to switch between banks, in the same way it has done in the past to enable customers of different banks to make use of each other’s automated teller machines (ATMs) and point of sale (POS) terminals.
Under the new technology, money can be sent instantly through the cellphone to anyone else with a cellphone, regardless of the recipient’s cellphone network.
The recipient receives notification on the cellphone of the amount transferred and a transaction reference number. The sender then contacts the recipient with a secret code.
The recipient just has to go to the nearest outlet with a ZimSwitch Ready sign, provide the information given in the money transfer message and the secret code, produce an identity card and receive the money.
Roscoe said the mobile banking concept shared by Telecel ZimSwitch and ZimSwitch member financial institutions was to provide mobile banking at a minimal cost. Banking institutions, by cooperating and making use of ZimSwitch were able to offer the service at a low cost.
CABS managing director Kevin Terry echoed the importance of making banking services available in this way to people who have not previously held bank accounts.
“People are not unbanked because they want to be,” said Terry.
“They are unbanked because they either have no access to a bank or cannot afford to open an account.”
The mobile banking service makes it possible to engage in banking activities even when there is no bank nearby and to do so at minimal cost.
Registering for mobile banking is simple. A Telecel line and identity card is the basic requirement.
“We had discussions with all three mobile networks but only Telecel has really been listening to us,” said Terry.
Asked how this mobile banking platform compared with Ecocash, which was recently launched by Econet, Terry said Ecocash was a closed network.
Money that was sent could only be accessed from an Ecocash outlet. Money could not be sent instantly to another person’s bank account.