Cash transfer facility hits 1 million

About three quarters of Zimbabweans now have access to mobile telecommunications services, with Econet Wireless Zimbabwe claiming 70% of the market share, a senior executive has said.

In a statement accompanying the company’s financial results for the year ended February 2012, the chairman, Tawanda Nyambirai, said the company now boasted almost 6.5 million subscribers, from an initial capacity of just 1.2 million in 2009.

“The group maintained its market leadership with 70% of the mobile market share. Subscribers rose 16% during the year to 6.4 million. Mobile market penetration increased to 74% from 66%,” he said. He attributed this to a $614 million network upgrade, a staggering 15% of the country’s total budget.

“This investment has widened the competitive gap to over 70% in just under four years. The business has also been able to consolidate and expand its service offerings based on latest technologies and now commands the most extensive data and voice coverage and capacity in the country,” said Nyambirai.

Econet posted an after tax profit of over $165 million, a $20 million jump from the previous year, while earnings per share rose 17c to $1.

The company disposed its investments in AFRE and Rainbow Tourism Group, which Nyambirai called a “well executed strategy that saw the business invest the excess cash in non-core assets to preserve shareholder value.”

Meanwhile, the company’s cash transfer system, Ecocash, has taken the market by storm by recording a million subscribers in less than six months after it was launched.

“This and other achievements were realized due to our ability to access funding at a time when the business community was groaning under the weight of a crippling liquidity crisis,” he said.

The EcoCash product allows money to be transferred between mobile users across all mobile telephone networks, a mobile phone-based version of MoneyGram or Western Union. As analysts predicted at its launch the product is proving to be a potential Eldorado, with reports indicating Econet learnt the workings of its new offering from Safaricom of Kenya who run a similar service called M-Pesa. The Kenyan experiment has been a runaway economic success, exploding from 20 000 users within a month of its launch in March 2007 to the current 14 million users.

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