The country has seen an increase in mobile penetration that has led to the reduction of financial inequality between urban and rural areas as well as between men and women, according to the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (ICT).
According to ICT Minister Tatenda Mavetera, the country has experienced an increase in mobile money use and internet banking due to Government policy and it has led to more people being banked in the country.
“The increase in mobile phones has resulted in the country being able to bank more citizens in the past 10 years more than any other period before,” she said.
According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), uptake of banking products increased from 33 percent (men) and 27 percent (women) in 2014, to 50 percent (men) and 43 percent (women) respectively, while uptake of other non-bank formal financial products remained relatively stable over the review period at 40 percent for women and 34 percent for men.
“The financial exclusion gap for women has reduced from 24 percent in 2014 to 12 percent in 2022 largely driven by increased uptake of both banking and non-bank financial products.
“Mobile money uptake among women improved from 43 percent in 2014, to 61 percent in 2022, while mobile money penetration among the men improved from 48 percent to 66 percent,” the RBZ said.
Said Mavetera; “The technology of mobile money has acted as a leveler in the income distribution spectrum, reducing the gap between the urban and rural populations.
“Previously, rural communities faced challenges in accessing financial services, leading to economic disparities. The convenience of mobile money has bridged this gap, enabling rural households to engage in formal financial activities.”
Despite the remarkable strides made, challenges persist, issues such as cybersecurity concerns, regulatory compliance and infrastructure limitations still need to be addressed.
A study conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2022 reveals a 20 percent decrease in income inequality in Zimbabwe over the last two years, with mobile money playing a significant role in this positive trend.
“As a ministry, we anticipate that mobile penetration rate will increase to 75,4 percent by 2025 from the current 61,3 percent. The World Bank says a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration results in 1,5 percent economic growth and this is what we should strive to achieve as a ministry and as a country,” she added.
According to Mavetera, internet penetration has increased, but she acknowledged that broadband network extension lagged behind.
“While the country’s broadband coverage may be high, important portions of the population remain unconnected,” Mavetera said.
The said RBZ report detailed the breadth of mobile money’s impact on Zimbabwean households as 63 percent of the total population now has access to formal financial inclusion thanks to mobile wallets. About 72 percent of Zimbabwean households now have access to formal banking services, compared to 30 percent in 2014.