Tapiwanashe Mangwiro-Senior Reporter
Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), an association of mobile telecoms from across the world, has ranked Zimbabwe top of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s 16 member states in terms of mobile money penetration.
However, GSMA noted that the intermediated money transfer tax (IMTT), commonly known as the 2 percent tax, continued to make mobile money costly.
Zimbabwe has the highest mobile money penetration level in the Southern African Development Community region, a recent report by GSMA shows.
After 2020 brought unparalleled challenges and historical changes to the local and global economy it became clear that mobile technology and mobile money in particular, would have an out-sized role to play in keeping people connected, delivering vital financial support and providing safe, no-contact ways to pay for food, electricity and other life essentials.
Businesses worldwide have been affected by the slowdown in economic activity due to the Covid-19 induced lockdowns. The mobile money industry moved quickly, embraced disruption and built resilience.
Mobile money has become highly prevalent in so-called under- or unbanked areas like the majority of Africa.
GSMA’s Regulatory Index 2021 revealed that Zimbabwe recorded a significant drop in its index score compared to the previous year. The mobile money regulatory index is a tool that measures the extent to which a country’s regulations provide an enabling framework for sustainable mobile money services.
“This was primarily due to the suspension of agent activities and reduction of transaction limits,” stated GSMA.
“Zimbabwe has the highest mobile money penetration levels in the SADC region. Much can be done to ensure the sustainability of mobile money and the resilience of the users in Zimbabwe.”
In February 2021, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce bemoaned that IMTT remained an albatross for many businesses. It advocated for the 2 percent to be redesigned so that it could be allowed as an expense for formal business.
The IMTT is collected on a range of financial transactions such as direct debits, online and mobile money transfers, payments to suppliers, loan and interbank transfers and any other funds transfers.
“Mobile money transactions accrue a 2 percent tax levied on the transaction amount significantly increasing the cost of using mobile money in Zimbabwe.”
Mobile and internet-based transactions stood at $263,30 billion, in October 2021, a 7,32 percent increase from $245,33 billion in the previous month, according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Informal traders tend to prefer mobile money or cash for their transactions. But this can be viewed as a failure of the local banking sector to adjust to the demands of the local market by offering more convenient or cost appropriate services.
Over the medium term, mobile-money operators are poised to scale up their value-added financial services, such as interest-yielding deposits and insurance, supported by the growing number of people joining the ranks of the middle-and-high-income groups.
In 2020, mobile money users in Africa exchanged US$490 billion using mobile money providers alone.