• RBZ partnered Homelink to address the ZiG cash crisis
  • Effective June 10th, the public will be able to swipe ZiG cash at available Homelink branches located
  • However, challenges such as limited branch coverage, high transaction costs, and concerns about centralization of services raise doubts about its ability to comprehensively resolve the prevailing cash crisis

Harare- The government has partnered with Homelink, a financial services company, to address the ZiG cash crisis that has bewildered the economy. This crisis has led to a rounding up of previously valued products from $0.50 to $1.00. Effective June 10th, the public will be able to swipe ZiG cash at Homelink available branches. This partnership is expected to help resolve the ZiG cash crisis that has been affecting the economy.

To facilitate this increased access to ZiG, RBZ has set up 2 branches in Bulawayo, 6 branches in Harare single branches each in Gweru, Chitungwiza, Kwekwe, Mutare, and Rusape.

This is a positive move by the government and the RBZ, as it aims to address the scarcity of smaller ZiG denominations. By improving the availability of these smaller denominations, the initiative is expected to enhance the swiftness and ease of trade within the country, benefiting commuters, vendors, informal traders, and retailers.

However, it's unclear whether this government-Homelink initiative will be able to fully stabilize the ZiG cash system and restore normal pricing and transactions. 

Since the inception of ZiG coins and cash in the Zimbabwean monetary system on April 30, 2024, citizens have been grappling with the challenges posed by the new currency. One of the main issues has been the shortage of smaller denominations, especially for commuting and purchasing smaller products. This has led to widespread rounding up of prices to the nearest US dollar due to the lack of change.

Generally, the introduction of ZiG has been beset by various difficulties, making life quite hectic for the general populace. One of the most prominent challenges is the currency's exchange rate policy, which is not determined by market forces but pegged to the US dollar by government. This government-imposed approach has proven to be a failed strategy, as the ZiG has become an increasingly poor investment, shedding 36% of its value within just one month worse than the RTGS.

Furthermore, the ZiG has faced issues with convertibility, hindering its widespread acceptance and adoption. Now, the indivisibility of the currency, with no clear plan for smaller denominations, has exacerbated the challenges faced by consumers and businesses alike.

Money is said to be divisible if it can be split up into smaller amounts without losing value. This characteristic ensures that money can adapt to various transaction sizes. For example, a currency must be simple to divide for both small-scale transactions like paying for combis and larger ones like buying real estate.

However, the primary concern appears to be the high costs associated with financial transactions, such as swiping fees and unnecessary bank charges. This can be burdensome for citizens, as it reduces their ability to access their own funds without incurring additional expenses.

Additionally, there is a mismatch between the limited number of Homelink branches (13 active branches) and the sizeable economically active population (at least 6 million people). This raises the question of whether the current service coverage is adequate to effectively serve the needs of the broader population.

There are also concerns about the inconvenience and additional costs imposed on citizens living outside of the main urban centres, such as Beitbridge and Mashonaland East. Requiring them to travel to Harare to access Homelink services creates an extra layer of burden that disproportionately affects those in more remote or rural areas.

It would be even better if this was done through EcoCash, TeleCash, or OneMoney. These mobile money services are widespread and not just available in Bulawayo and Harare.

Under normal circumstances, people should be able to obtain cash from their banks. Obtaining them from Homelink may suggests improper dealings. It is hoped that this service will be extended to banks and telecommunications operators, not just Homelink alone. After all, the banks originally issued the cards in the first place. This level of centralization undermines broader acceptance and convenience, raising the question of who exactly owns Homelink.

To address this firstly, expanding the Homelink branch network could improve accessibility and coverage across the country, ensuring that citizens have more convenient access to these services, regardless of their location. But this would be much better given I is done through banks.

Thus, a potential solution would be to integrate Homelink services into the existing banking infrastructure, allowing citizens to conduct these transactions at any bank branch nationwide. This would eliminate the need for people to travel long distances to reach a Homelink branch, particularly for those living in more remote or rural areas. Even exploring alternative service delivery models, such as mobile banking units or partnerships with local financial institutions, could help to reach underserved communities and improve the overall accessibility of these vital financial services.

By addressing these issues through a combination of network expansion, fee reductions, service integration, and innovative delivery models, the goal should be to create a more equitable, accessible, and user-friendly financial system that serves the needs of all citizens, regardless of their geographic location or socioeconomic status.

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