Gradually and like a python squeezing a hapless style the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit is attacking mobile money platforms led by Ecocash and seconded by OneMoney. Over the weekend the FIU issued an unpublished order to ban Agent to Agent as well as other similar transactions on OneMoney and Ecocash.

Dear Partner. Agent to Agent, Agent to Bulk, Bulk to Agent, Bulk to Bulk transactions have been barred immediately in compliance with FIU directive

A message received by some Ecocash agents

While some alleged that these moves were meant to help and bolster OneMoney it seems this time they were not spared either.

Dear Agent/Bulk Payer

Please be advised that we are implementing a directive from the Financial Intelligence Unit, that the following transactions are no longer permitted with immediate effect:

1. Agent to another Agent or to a Bulk Payer

2. Bulk Payer to another Bulk Payer or to an Agent

Please note that Bulk Payers are allowed to make transactions to individual customers.

We will be submitting exceptions to the above for approval by the RBZ and the process shouldn’t take too long.

Should you have any queries please kindly contact us for assistance:

Part of the message sent to OneMoney Agents and Bulk payers

Killing the economy to kill the black market

The Financial Intelligence Unit, obviously backed by the government including the courts, has gotten much bolder but as we have pointed elsewhere we have been here before. Stopping people from spending money is not going to save the crumbling Zimbabwean dollar, sadly. It just makes life for us normal citizens difficult. There is a reason why the above transactions were popular even before the emergence of the current black market.

Part of the reason why mobile money is popular is that the government has failed miserably to solve the cash crisis. This made people embrace mobile money wholeheartedly as getting started is pretty easy and the requirements are not onerous as the ones needed to open a bank account. All you need is a phone and ID and you can receive your salary (through bulk payments), cash in and cash out, pay merchants, buy airtime etc.

To win this war the FIU will need to shutdown mobile money completely. Doing so will effectively mean the death of the economy save the small part using bond notes and USD to transact. It’s a situation we have seen before. In February 2008 this happened and the population simply switched to the multi-currency system. There is a risk as the stranglehold continues people will simply dump the local currency.