• Mobile and internet-based transactions grew by 59.5% to ZW$425.06 billion in March 2022 from ZW$266.4 billion in February
  • Stats show that there were 13.64 million cellular mobile connections in Zimbabwe at the start of 2022
  • The outlook for mobile payments as the most preferred channel is positive thanks to a host of technological advances

As of December 2018, two-thirds of total global mobile money transactions were driven by users in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with values exceeding US$25 billion. Zimbabwe, located in the SSA region saw its government encourage people to use mobile payments as a way to alleviate a cash crunch that resulted in long bank queues in recent years. The unforeseen outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 also accelerated the use of mobile and internet-based transactions as a way of limiting the spread of the virus, and there are no signs of that growth slowing down anytime soon.

Mobile commerce (Mcommerce), involves shopping through a mobile device (typically a smartphone), while eCommerce involves shopping online through a computer.

The evolution of Mcommerce contributed to a drastic change in the banking sector where fees and commissions now outpace lending as the core driver of banks’ earnings. The drop in the core business of the financial services providers is attributed to the economic decline over the past two or more decades where industrial activity became constrained, leading to the closure of a significant number of businesses.

The latest monthly economic review data provided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) shows that the country recorded a significant increase in mobile and internet-based transactions at ZW$425.06 billion, up 59.5% from ZW$266.4 billion recorded in the preceding month.

During that month, the total value of transactions processed through the National Payments System (NPS) stood at ZW$1.47 trillion, up from ZW$1.04 trillion recorded in the previous month. NPS transaction volumes increased by 11% to close at 108.36 million, during the month under analysis.

Transactions processed through the Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) system registered an increase, from ZW$672.72 billion in February 2022 to ZW$961.45 billion in March 2022. The volume of RTGS transactions increased by 27%, from 0.98 million in February 2022 to 1.24 million, during the month under review.

Cash based transactions stood at ZW$24.07 billion in March 2022, up from ZW$16.99 billion in the previous month while card-based transactions closed the month under review at ZW$82.93 billion, up from ZW$65.19 billion recorded in February 2022.

Mobile payments meet the need for financial inclusion, as the vast majority of the population is still without a bank account. Ecocash, a mobile money service under the Econet bracket is the leading mobile wallet in the country. The service claims more than 80% of the market share compared to rival services like NetOne’s OneMoney and Telecel’s Telecash.

Data from GSMA Intelligence shows that there were 13.64 million cellular mobile connections in Zimbabwe at the start of 2022. GSMA Intelligence’s numbers indicate that mobile connections in Zimbabwe were equivalent to 89.7% of the total population in January 2022.

The number of mobile connections in Zimbabwe increased by 445 thousand (+3.4 percent) between 2021 and the start of 2022.

The situation is the same in countries like Kenya and Nigeria, with the former considered a pioneer in the development of mobile money in Africa. As reported by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council, Kenya recorded a record high in mobile transactions at $55.1 billion last year, up nearly 20% from 2020.

In Nigeria, 60% of internet users were using mobile payments in 2021, for an internet penetration rate of around 34%.

Benefits

Mcommerce has the potential to become a major channel for shopping and to change consumer shopping habits. Consumers are reliant on digital devices now more than ever, and it is predicted that mobile will inch closer to becoming consumers’ preferred channel for online shopping within the next five years. 

The outlook for mobile payments as the most preferred channel is positive thanks to a host of technological advances that are making it easier for users to shop on their phones. It is also popular among Millennials and Gen Zers who are more tech-savvy and have the ability to boost volume, as they are more likely to do a wider share of shopping on their smartphones.