MasterCard has partnered with the Zimbabwean Steward Bank to avail money transfer services to the bank’s more than 1.5-million account holders for the first time.
This platform will ensure the bank’s customers receive funds sent by family and friends abroad directly into their Steward Bank accounts, using the international money transfer hub HomeSend.This is a joint venture between MasterCard, eServGlobal and BICS; Steward Bank is the first Zimbabwean bank to join the global HomeSend network.
In the next phase, Steward Bank’s sister company EcoCash will soon connect to HomeSend, enabling more than four million EcoCash mobile money customers to receive remittances into their mobile money wallets, after which they can pay bills, pay merchants, send money and cash out.
Those who hold a MasterCard Debit Companion card linked to their EcoCash wallets will also be able to withdraw money from MasterCard-licensed ATMs and pay for goods and services at millions of merchants that accept MasterCard payment cards, both in Zimbabwe and internationally.
“Remittances are an important source of foreign currency into Zimbabwe, amounting to $1.8-billion in 2013 received via transfer agencies and formal channels,” says Dr Lance Mambondiani, acting CEO of Steward Bank.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that as many as 4-million Zimbabweans live abroad. Given estimates that Zimbabwe’s GDP was about $13.5-billion in 2013, remittances received from these individuals through formal channels alone contributed about 13 percent to the country’s GDP.
“Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are increasingly playing an important role in the development of the country through remittances. However, the cost of transferring money to the country was high until now, and a large proportion of remittances were sent informally in cash,” says Charlton Goredema, vice-president and area business head: Southern Africa and Emerging Markets at MasterCard. “Funds sent and received via informal channels are vulnerable to theft, loss and shrinkage due to charges levied for transporting cash between countries.
“By digitising and formalising remittance payments, we are further contributing to the growth and development of Zimbabwe’s economy,” he says.