ECONET this week launched its “EcoCash Savings Club”, a new mobile product to support savings groups across the country.
The service is targeted at the self-employed, informal sector entrepreneurs, street vendors and social investor women’s groups.
According to the company anyone registered on EcoCash – Econet’s mobile money service – can set up a group mobile wallet for free. Savings clubs earn interest on all pooled funds starting from $1 after every 30 days.
The product looks to improve informal group savings and investment clubs, locally known as ‘mukando’ or ‘maround’, which are common throughout Zimbabwe and across many parts of the world.
The schemes typically consist of a group of members, who each contribute regularly into a cash pool that members borrow from on a rotating basis.
While the practice is widespread, savings clubs face security risks in handling cash and difficulties tracking contributions and withdrawals from members.
In a statement this week, Econet said the EcoCash Savings Club offers a more inclusive, secure, transparent and convenient way for people to pool funds using their mobile wallet.
The company, in partnership with the Organisation For Public Health Interventions (OPHID) – a Zimbabwean NGO – has been working with groups of women countrywide to refine the EcoCash Savings Club.
Commenting on the announcement, CEO of Econet Wireless, Douglas Mboweni, noted: “In Econet’s drive to broaden financial inclusion, we seek to create economies of scale that build up savings deposits for the nation as well as demonstrate through their savings patterns the credit worthiness of our customers.
“We are committed to continue on the path of dynamic innovation, to bring world-class financial services in the context of our Zimbabwean market.”
The nationwide launch took place Wednesday at the Border Church Clinic in rural Marondera District.
The Mbereko Women’s Groups at the clinic, which have savings groups for pregnant women and new mothers, have been pilot testing the Savings Club product over the past six months, with guidance from OPHID.
“Group savings culture for specific purposes or asset investment is a common phenomenon in Zimbabwe, but the target segment is largely un-recognised and underappreciated,” said Natalie Jabangwe-Morris, head of EcoCash Business.Advertisement
“EcoCash Savings Club is intended to reward this diligent savings behaviour, as well as become an enabler for access to other services, such as mobile credit. It also offers an opportunity to extend EcoCash mobile money agency businesses to groups of people that are credit worthy, but have been long marginalised.”
Diana Patel, deputy director of OPHID, said at the launch, “We are pleased to have partnered with EcoCash on the group savings product, and to be the first of many other NGOs that will work with Econet to ensure broader financial inclusion, empowerment and social transformation in Zimbabwe.”