By Alois Vinga
RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe has banned on bulk airtime sales, ordering telecommunications service providers to stagger reduction of physical airtime sales to 10% in a bid to contain illicit foreign currency dealings.
In a statement directed to all Mobile Telecommunications and Mobile Phone Service Providers, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) director general, Oliver Chiperesa ordered the companies to control the production and sale of airtime.
The FIU said bulk airtime recharge vouchers are being abused by airtime dealers to facilitate illegal foreign currency trading and money laundering.
The unit said airtime dealers have been purchasing airtime vouchers in bulk from mobile telecommunication service providers using local currency and then disposing of the same at discounted foreign currency prices.
The bulk airtime traders have not been depositing the significant foreign currency proceeds so generated into the banking system but have instead channelled the same to fuel trade on the foreign exchange parallel market.
“In order to curb this abuse, the following measures shall apply in respect of mobile telecommunication and mobile payment service providers: mobile telecommunication service providers shall take steps to decrease the production and sale of bulk physical airtime recharge vouchers and promote the increased use of electronic airtime recharge.”
“Reduce sales of physical airtime recharge vouchers to twenty percent 20% of all airtime sales by 31 January 2022 and to ten percent 10 % by 30 April 2022,” Chiperesa ordered.
Mobile telecommunication service providers were ordered to submit a written plan to the FIU no later than 7 November 2021 detailing the measures to be taken to meet the above targets by the set dates.
In addition to the measures referred to above, service providers were directed to issue circulars to their respective airtime distributors to enforce limits on till-point airtime voucher purchasers to airtime purchases of not more than $ 10 000 in value in any one transaction.
“In order to facilitate electronic airtime recharging through customers’ mobile money wallets, individual mobile wallet holders may, with immediate effect, be allowed to conduct cash-in to their mobile money wallets, at designated outlets, up to $5 000 per week. Cash-outs shall not be permissible,” Chiperesa added.