Mobile transactions soar in Zimbabwe
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.”
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