Harare – ECONET Wireless, the giant Zimbabwean telco which has 3 million mobile money subscribers, is to offer loans for its EcoCash Save account holders as part of the group’s bid to encourage the unbanked populace in Zimbabwe to open bank accounts.
EcoCash Save accounts are run in partnership with Steward Bank, in which Econet has majority ownership after buying out former Chairman, Tawanda Nyambirai’s controlling interest.
Econet is looking to diversify its revenue streams in light of declining revenue from voice telephony services. The company is facing stiff competition from its rivals and from emerging cheap internet based communication platforms such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and VoIP.
The establishment of EcoCash Save, which has fewer hassles in opening an account as it is paperless, is aimed at mopping up money circulating outside the formal banking sector in Zimbabwe.
“EcoCashSave account holders will soon be able to also borrow money, just like ordinary bank account holders. This is part of what will be called EcoCashCredit that Econet is planning to roll out early in the New Year,” said Rangarirai Mberi, the communications manager for Econet on Monday.
Econet chief executive officer, Douglas Mboweni said the borrowing facility will be done through other partner banks, apart from Steward Bank.
Econet will process loans for EcoCash Save account holders for various purposes such as school fees and even housing loans. Zimbabwe is in the midst of a crippling liquidity crunch that has curtailed business operations and economic activity in the country.
Mboweni also confirmed on Monday that the number of bank accounts held by Steward Bank on behalf of EcoCashSave have now surpassed those held by all the banks put together.
“We have more than 900,000 account holders, compared to 850,000 for all the banks,” he said.
The company will start offering loans for EcoCash Save account holders early next year, knowledgeable officials told BizDay Zimbabwe.