23 April 2017
HARARE – As reported elsewhere in this edition, the rise in the demand for
card-swipe or point-of-sale (POS) machines appears to be fairly good news
for all Zimbabweans.
However, there is need for citizens to be circumspect as cascading the
technology may only be easy in urban areas.
Zimbabwe’s rural population, who may also need to occasionally purchase
small grocery items from general dealerships across the country, may find
themselves disenfranchised from the obvious benefits of the technology as
the cash shortages continue to bite harder.
With the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, slightly over a week ago, announcing
the maximum cash-back amount the public could get from wholesalers and
retailers was $20, regardless of the purchase one had made, the demand for
the swipe technology was only set to grow.
The tragedy of our situation lies in that in terms of capacity, not all
corners of Zimbabwe enjoy constant supply of electricity as well as
telecommunications network connectivity – key requirements that would make
the transacting public gain confidence in the system.
Smooth implementation would have been ensured had plastic technology been
encouraged when money supply was not this critical. Today, bond notes –
introduced into the market late last year – are also in short supply, with
some banks having reduced their withdrawal limits from $100 per day to
The central bank strongly believes the hoarding of cash is the major cause
of the current shortages.
Although cash shortages are nothing new, with the country having dumped
its own currency at the height of hyperinflation in 2008-9 when the
unpopular agro and bearer cheques plunged Zimbabwe into an economic abyss.
The surrogate currency, according to the RBZ was ostensibly introduced as
an export incentive, which would also ease the obtaining cash shortages.
If anything, the cash shortages have only worsened – thanks to ruinous
Zanu PF policies – eroding the measure of confidence the banking sector
was beginning to get on the back of the stabilising years of the
Government of National Unity between 2009-13.
Our major concern, however, remains the continued marginalisation of rural
folks from technological interventions like the POS machines.
The sharp rise in demand for POS, according to the central bank, has
witnessed a three-time jump in demand for the machines over the last few
months with new categories of merchants like beauty salons, small stores,
even vegetable vendors.
The RBZ says POS transaction volumes surged 260 percent in 2016 on the
back of the cash crisis after the country processed transactions worth
$2,9 billion in 2016 from $1,7 billion processed in 2015.