Mo­bile trans­ac­tions soar in Zim­babwe

The Star Early Edition - - COMPANIES - Brian Latham

ZIMBABWEAN com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Delta Corp and BAT Zim­babwe, have seen their for­tunes turn as cash-strapped con­sumers start to em­brace elec­tronic pay­ments for goods and ser­vices.

Delta, An­heuser-Busch InBev’s brew­ing oper­a­tions in the south­ern African coun­try, re­ported a 12 per­cent rise in lager vol­umes in the three months through June, the first in­crease since Septem­ber 2015, while Bri­tish Amer­i­can To­bacco’s Zim­babwe unit posted an 8 per­cent profit gain in the half year through June.

Delta, also Zim­babwe’s big­gest com­pany with a mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of about $1.6 bil­lion (R20.8bn), said the turn­around was in part due to drinkers turn­ing to al­ter­na­tives to cash to buy beer as the coun­try bat­tles hard cur­rency short­ages.

Last year, the cen­tral bank re­sorted to print­ing so-called bond notes, pegged to the dol­lar, to ease a se­vere short­age of cash bills, or notes. Cen­tral bank gov­er­nor John Man­gudya said bond notes worth $175 mil­lion have been in­jected into the econ­omy.

Zim­babwe aban­doned its own cur­rency in 2009.

Mo­bile pay­ments and in­ter­net trans­ac­tions rose to $1.6bn in May from $1.1bn in April. Card pay­ments in­creased to $602.5m from $506m over the same pe­riod, Man­gudya said.

Tra­di­tional ATM trans­ac­tions slumped to $39.3m in April from $331.5m in Jan­uary 2016, The Source web­site re­ported, cit­ing re­search by Zimbabwean stock­broking and ad­vi­sory firm IH Se­cu­ri­ties.

“E-pay­ments have coun­tered to a sig­nif­i­cant ex­tent the im­pact of short­ages of cash,” Sife­lani Ja­bangwe, the pres­i­dent of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zim­babwe In­dus­tries, said in an in­ter­view this week. “You can sur­vive a whole month with­out mak­ing cash pay­ments.”

Cash al­ter­na­tives

BAT Zim­babwe’s fi­nance di­rec­tor Lu­cas Fran­cisco said al­most 90 per­cent of peo­ple are now us­ing cards to pay for cig­a­rettes.

Al­ter­na­tives to cash in­clude RTGS – or Real Time Gross Set­tle­ment – a type of in­ter­net bank­ing that ac­counted for about $5m in trans­ac­tions in May, a 46 per­cent rise on the pre­vi­ous month.

Wire­less com­pa­nies like Econet Wire­less Zim­babwe, state-owned NetOne and Tele­cel also op­er­ate mo­bile-bank­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and Zim­bab­weans in­creas­ingly swipe bank cards at re­tail­ers be­cause ATMs are empty. – Bloomberg

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