You can now cash in, cash out and send money using Ecocash again just like in the early days. When Ecocash was launched almost a decade ago it was intended to be a domestic remittance service. They did that job wonderfully until the cash crisis struck and they became something else. At a recent launch in Harare, the mobile money giant re-introduced their FCA wallet that now allows you to send money locally and most importantly allows you to cash in and cash out two functionalities that have not been easy to access of late using Ecocash.

It works like the old Ecocash we used to know and love

The service works like the old Ecocash we used to know and love. For example to send money to someone in Zimbabwe you can:

  • Visit any Econet Shop or Steward Bank branch and cash in your USD
  • You can then send the money to anyone in Zimbabwe as long as you know their number. You can do this by dialling *153# . This is different from the ZWL wallet code which is *155#
  • You can then just enter the recipient’s number and then send the money
  • The recipient can then visit their nearest Econet shop or Steward Bank branch

Ecocash is a bit late in the game here. While they used to be the kings of domestic remittance they were embroiled in a fight with the RBZ which accused them of offering safe havens for illegal forex dealers. The RBZ then banned them from offering cash-ins and cashouts as the central bank said that the most popular use of these services was to launder money and deal illegally in foreign currency. This left Ecocash beaten and bruised while wiser banks like BancABC launched their own domestic remittance services that are now very popular.

To their credit, Ecocash does seem to understand that this will be an uphill battle and they seem ready for the fight. They are pushing their wallet aggressively and offering a 100% cash in bonus to first time users. They have set aside US$10 000 to promote the use of the wallet this early in the game. For every US$1 you cash in you get another US$ courtesy of Ecocash. If you ask me that’s some serious promotion and shows how serious Ecocash is to climb bank onto that mountain.

Will it be enough?

It has been a roller coaster for Ecocash. They came on to the scene as revolutionary upstarts during the first half of the last decade and upended the way we transacted. At their peak in 2019-2020, they were a de facto currency. Then the RBZ struck them down when they banned cash-ins, cashouts and their agency system. Ecocash, according to our colleagues at Techzim even recently stopped allowing people to cash in into their FCA wallet a few weeks ago. The reason for that was never apparent and now it seems it was because they wanted to relaunch their Ecocash FCA wallet as a separate service rather than some lesser important part of the local ZWL service.

The question is will all these things be enough to bring Ecocash back to being the important part of our lives that it was? The answer, as always is that it really depends on a lot of things. Some of these things are easy to point out. For example, the cost of sending money will play a factor here.

EcocashUS$500About 1% depending on the amount sent
BancABC City HopperUS$250 for non-BancABC customers
US$500 for BancABC customers
Access ForexNo known limit3%
NBS InstaCashNo known limit3%
Steward RemitNo known limit2%
MojoMulaNo known limit5%

From the above, we can see that Ecocash is the cheapest sending service there. That’s just one factor to consider and as we have personally observed over the past couple of months fees are not the important aspect that people look at when they want to send USD. If that were the case, Ecocash’s Cassava would have won the international remittance battle a long time ago. The most important factor is how easy it is to cash out and convert that money bank into USD. Ecocash and Steward have a reputation for being difficult when it comes to converting your money to USD.

Their arrogant system poisoned that well during the cash crisis when they would demand hefty fees in order to help people cash out their money from the Ecocash wallet. For its part Ecocash did nothing tangible to stop the problem apart from a few feeble bans. That reputation would be hard to overcome. People cannot help but think that when the unknown happens, and the unknown happens a lot in this country, their money will be stuck in their wallets and will go to Ecocash as some interest-free loan. They will be forced to spend it in ways they didn’t plan and only get a fraction of their value. Ecocash has fewer “agents” now and is relying on Steward Bank their sister but they are still using their Econet Shops which are notorious for their below par service and often demanding premiums for routine services like photocopying your ID when you want to replace a lost SIM card.

Ecocash has a chance to shake the dust off and become a remittance giant again but splashing US$10000 is not going to cut it. They have to show that they are a better company than the toxic giant that routinely gobbled people’s money due to failed transactions and oversaw a cesspool of heartless agents.