Zimbabwean traditional banks have been notoriously expensive, inefficient and generally inaccessible to most Zimbabweans. Those with bank accounts were usually forced into it by regulation or employment practices. This meant that at most, 20% of Zimbabweans had formal bank accounts. Although academics and government had urged traditional banks to use new technology to make banking services more accessible, the plight went mostly unheard by the banks.
Although some banks tried to introduce new products and services to make banking more accessible, their efforts were half-hearted and did not yield much. Telecommunications company NetOne even introduced a smart wallet into Zimbabwe, but it had a low uptake due to its complexity. The real revolution came when NetOne’s telecoms competitor, Econet, introduced its mobile wallet into the market. Econet went into an unprecedented marketing and sign-up campaign. The subscriber numbers it garnered on its platform made it hard for big and small businesses to ignore and they too signed up. Even traditional banks signed onto its platform.
The fintech industry has grown into its ecosystem since then. In 2018, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe stated that 96% of Zimbabwe’s financial transactions are now electronic. The Fintech ecosystem has grown to include:
Nearly all mobile phone subscribers in Zimbabwe
Fintech agents in the form of individuals, businesses, and state companies.
Tech startups gassed on fintech services
Government departments and parastatals
There have been many benefits to all involved such as:
Lower transaction fees: this has left more disposable income for everybody in the ecosystem as traditional banking was notoriously expensive.
Small support businesses and employment: a majority of fintech agents are individuals who benefitted from the new business prospect of providing services to the fintech ecosystem
Ease of doing business: since everyone now has a fintech bank account, transacting has become easier between companies and their clients.
Transaction convenience and efficiency: Fintechs have made it easier for SMEs to provide better services primarily online. Customers no longer need to be physically present on the premises to make payment. SMEs also don’t have to waste time paying their suppliers since they can make payments from anywhere.
Fintech has been a Godsend for all those involved. The technology has made financial services easily accessible to the populace and made business more straightforward.
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