Rand wallet launched in cash-strapped Zimbabwe

Harare – South Africa’s currency could effectively start circulating in Zimbabwe as mobile network Econet Wireless introduces rand wallet on its mobile money platform in the country.

Amid a dollar crunch, with Econet Wireless’ rand wallet enables withdrawals and cash-ins of the South African currency.

Zimbabwe Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa said in Parliament on Wednesday that the central bank has introduced an additional $7m in bond notes this week. However, cash shortages have still not abated.

The government has declined to take up usage of the rand in Zimbabwe, despite calls for this from the business community.

Econet Wireless, which runs the EcoCash mobile money platform, has now moved in to open a rand wallet with immediate effect, said its chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni.

Barclays Zimbabwe has also been offering Rand withdrawals.

“With the facility, EcoCash customers are now able to either cash-In, cash-out or make payments to merchants and billers in rand,” said Mboweni

He added that the rand wallet will be a “separate wallet”. Although, the EcoCash platform still allows users “to transact” in both dollars and rands.  

“The introduction of a multi-currency wallet is another step towards meeting the country’s vision of becoming a cashless society and of easing liquidity in a multi-currency regime,” added Mboweni.

Zimbabwe adopted a multi-currency regime in 2009 after its own Zimbabwean Dollar skyrocketed and spurred on hyper-inflation.

However, a biting cash crunch this year has gripped the economy, with bank notes shortages disrupting business and economic activity.

Zimbabwe is also heavily reliant on its southern neighbour for finished products and stocks in most of its supermarkets. Wholesale products also come in from across the Limpopo.

Industrialists have called for the adoption of the rand to help ease procurement hurdles for companies that are finding it difficult to access foreign currency for international transactions.

“Introducing the rand will reduce pressure on the US dollar currency, which has become the predominant currency over the years but the utilisation levels are unsustainable,” said Econet.

Natalie Jabangwe - the head of the EcoCash mobile money platform which has more than 5 million registered users in Zimbabwe and which also allows for remittances from South Africa - said the rand wallet will be expanded to cater for more services.

“The first phase of the rand wallet roll-out will allow our customers to cash-in and cash out ZAR at any of our EcoCash Agents, send money, and make payments to merchants and billers as well as send remittances on 1:1 in ZAR from South Africa.

“Additional services such as banking services and card transactions, will be gradually added onto the rand wallet system,” she said.

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