Econet has through its Ecocash division restored confidence in the banking sector with more than four million Zimbabweans transacting with the facility while its banking division attracted a million customers inside three months of its inception.
Presenting a paper at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair business conference, a senior Econet official Darlington Mandivenga said those figures showed a complete change in the complexion of the banking sector which had only 853 000 account holders shared by more than 20 banks in 100 years before and after independence.
“This shows what innovation does and at Econet we believe in innovation coupled with implementation,” he said to a round of applause from the more than 150 delegates attending the conference running alongside the ZITF.
Zimbabwe’s banking sector took a huge dip in 2009 when the country introduced the multi-currency system after which scores of Zimbabweans lost their Zim dollars to banks overnight.
Confidence in the financial sector has further plunged due to failures by banks to pay depositors’ money while the much-talked about recapitalisation of the sector has remained on the drawing board.
Mandivenga said Econet’s approach was slowly restoring banking confidence because it did not ask for a lot of things which made it user-friendly.
“And of late we have introduced loans and people are able to access up to $500 loans if they meet the requirements which are simply having some money in their savings,” said Mandivenga.
As part of its social services, Econet has also provided refridgerators at almost all of its base stations where nearby hospitals can store their drugs and vaccinations.
“We also have a remote diagnosis facility at health kiosks at those base stations where a nurse helps villagers access treatment and during complicated cases this nurse can link with a doctor with the technology we have provided,” he said in his presentation, punctuated by applauses.
On the Education sector Mandivenga who said his organisation had long started implementing the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) said on the Education front Econet had introduced 52 free Educational sites on EcoClass.
“These are zero-rated, they are free,” he said.
Econet has also introduced food and nutrition-related programmes with its Eco-farmer and weather indexed insurance to smallholder farmers which was already underway in Mashonaland East.
Mandivenga said the rural penetration of mobile phones by his organisation was 100% and up to $1 billion dollars had been put into infrastructural development in the last 10 years.
“We have introduced some facilities that are not yet even in the USA.”