BARCELONA – At Mobile World Congress today, MasterCard announced a partnership with Steward Bank, Zimbabwe’s most innovative bank, which will make remittance services available to the bank’s more than 1.5 million account holders. For the first time, the bank’s customers will be able to receive funds sent by family and friends abroad directly into their Steward Bank accounts.
This is through international money transfer hub HomeSend, 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 US$1.8 billion in 2013received via transfer agencies and formal channels,” said Dr. Lance Mambondiani, Acting CEO, Steward Bank. “Thousands of under-banked Zimbabwean families are dependent on funds sent by relatives working in other countries. Now, through the partnership with MasterCard and HomeSend, these citizens have access to affordable, convenient money transfer services.”
The International Organisation for Migration estimates that as many as four million Zimbabweans live abroad. Given estimates that Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was about US$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,” said Charlton Goredema, Vice President and Area Business Head, Southern Africa and Emerging Markets, 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 digitizing and formalising remittance payments, we are further contributing to the growth and development of Zimbabwe’s economy,” he says.
Zimbabweans living abroad can send funds via a range of channels including participating MasterCard financial services institutions and HomeSend’s partners: mHITs (Australia), Skrill (worldwide), Hello Paisa (South Africa) and Daytona Capital Management (UK).