EcoCash this week announced a system upgrade that will result in the mobile transacting platform being off-line on Saturday night and Sunday during the day.
The notice about the upgrade has been largely well received, presumably because it was given well in advance, giving the public ample time to transact before the 24-hour downtime. It is also being widely publicized on multiple media channels and via SMS, a commendable effort by EcoCash and Cassava Smartech, the parent company of EcoCash, to ensure that everyone is not taken by surprise.
There is also a sense that any scheduled downtime to upgrade or improve the system must be a good thing, that it is necessary medicine to ensure the platform performs better and, as the company said in its statement, to improve security – a big thing for any financial services system.
Yet perhaps the convenience that EcoCash has brought to people’s way of live, whether at a personal or business level, is something Zimbabweans have now come to take for granted. It is only in moments like this weekend, when the service is temporarily down, that people can sit back and reflect on the opportunities that the popular platform has created for Zimbabweans, as they eagerly wait for the service to resume.
It used to be a big headache when one wanted to send money to their mother in the villages, to a colleague stranded at the border, to a friend who has run out of fuel or has had a flat tyre somewhere in the middle of night.
But that was then.
Now, from the convenience of one’s phone, all that is needed is to click a few buttons and the much needed financial relief is instantly delivered to one’s mother, or a stranded friend is bailed out in a matter of seconds!
With EcoCash payroll, paying thousands of workers all at once – from wherever they are – is now as convenient as ever for large corporations. The same applies to NGOs, church or charity organizations needing to remit donations, wages or designated funds to people who are geographically spread across the country.
Businesses themselves have had life made much easier by EcoCash, from being able to securely settle commercial payments, to the ability that EcoCash brings to audit the trail of funds allocated to staff or used by their employees for business.
For the 10 million Zimbabweans registered on the EcoCash platform, the ability to pay for goods and services anywhere in Zimbabwe, to settle hospital bills, pay school fees, buy Zesa tokens or pay tollgate fees in transit can easily be taken for granted.
The EcoCash platform is supervised by the RBZ which is understood to have visibility of every transaction that takes on the platform. This enhances the Central Bank’s ability to better enforce AML and FICA laws and policies, due to the transparency that EcoCash provides, compared to cash.
Even for Central Government, EcoCash greatly enhances its ability to collect revenue because of the inclusion of the informal sector into formal financial services.
The integration of EcoCash with all banks, which was an EcoCash initiative, is one innovation that elevated what was just a mobile money transfer platform into a truly financial transacting platform. It allowed EcoCash to become a full payments platform and has brought unparalleled personal and collective convenience at a scale not imagined just a few years back.
Rwanda, the Central African country acclaimed for its resilience, fast progress, strong leadership and business friendly policies, was recently quoted in media reports as considering tax incentives to businesses for the use of electronic payments. The report said the government of Rwanda had set a target of achieving 60% electronic payments usage by 2024.
But in Zimbabwe – thanks to EcoCash – as of mid 2019, the RBZ was already reporting that over 80 percent of all local payments in Zimbabwe were electronic, and that EcoCash contributed to over 85% of the volume of electronic transactions.
This goes to show that other countries, even those considered most progressive, are battling to get to where Zimbabwe has been already been.
And it is fair to say it is a measure of the extend to which EcoCash has helped propel the country to levels only dreamt of by the governments and monetary authorities of many countries around the world.