You’ve got a phone – big deal. You’ve got a smartphone- big deal. There’s nothing new here, it’s actually reckoned that there are more SIM cards in Zimbabwe than there are Zimbabweans.
It’s all about unlocking the value of your devices, and a lot of data suggests that Zimbabweans have really cracked getting the most out of theirs. New findings suggest that Zimbabweans are avid users of mobile technology – especially when it comes to connecting with friends and family.
While mobile payments – the likes of Apple Pay and Google Wallet – have been massively overhyped in the United States, Zimbabweans show how it’s done with Mobile Money: 78% of adults have sent money with their phone, 67% have received money on their phone. More than five million Zimbabweans have a Mobile Money accountthat’s more than the number of bank accounts in the whole country. Now think about the fact that even in America people still accept hand-written cheques for payments.
It’s no surprise that for many of those who left Zimbabwe, keeping in touch with close ones at home has become ever-more important. The volume of international phone calls into Zimbabwe grew by 10% in Q3 of last year. Estimates suggest that Zimbabweans in the diaspora racked up 60 million minutes, or 1 million hours, of international phone calls to friends and family at home in 2014. Not to mention all the millions of minutes racked up on Skype, Viber, or other VOIP services.
The same goes for receiving money from abroad. Zimbabweans make up one of the largest and most vibrant diaspora communities in the world. More than three million Zimbabweans live outside their home country; many of them are in the United Kingdom and in South Africa. And they are already sending money directly to mobile wallets at home, instead of the more traditional cash-pick up options. Alix Murphy, Senior Mobile Analyst at WorldRemit, said: “Our Zimbabwean customers are at the forefront of the mobile revolution. More than 70 per cent of them already send money to EcoCash’s mobile wallet, and around 40 per cent of them already use the WorldRemit app to make a transfer.”
Ms. Murphy confirmed Zimbabweans in the diaspora have been among the fastest adopters of new iOS and Android money transfer apps: “While everyone looks to Kenya as the leader in mobile money transfers, in fact, when it comes to sending money from mobiles, Zimbabweans have been almost twice as eager to use an app to make a transfer.”
This shouldn’t be surprising, and is paralleled by the success of smartphone adoption and mobile broadband subscriptions at home in Zimbabwe. If it’s any indication, network provider EcoNet alone reported a 42 per growth in mobile broadband revenue in February 2015. Estimates suggest that today, 1 in 5 Zimbabweans owns a smartphone.
While in the US, much of the mobile payments hype has been around paying for a Starbucks coffee with your phone, Zimbabwe leads the way with truly sustainable mobile financial services. Mobile wallets, such as EcoCash, are increasingly offering add-on services for m-insurance, bill payment, or m-commerce, especially through their mobile apps. Remittance services such as WorldRemit, which already send more than 60% of all transactions to EcoCash, play a key role in connecting the Zimbabwean diaspora with the Mobile Money ecosystem at home.
The trends are clear: Zimbabweans transfer money on mobiles. Mobile Money remittances to Zimbabwe are going up. Phone calls from abroad are going up. Zimbabwean smartphone subscriptions are going up. Mobile Money add-on services are growing. Mobile broadband is exploding. In short – Zimbabweans are Africa’s true mobile champions.