The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) through its Financial Intelligent Unit (FIU) has ordered mobile network providers in the country to reduce the number of physical airtime vouchers in circulation as a move to reduce money laundering.
The FIU has noted that bulk airtime recharge vouchers are being abused by airtime dealers to facilitate illegal foreign currency trading and money laundering.
“Airtime dealers have been purchasing airtime vouchers in bulk from mobile telecommunication service providers using local currency and then disposing same at discounted foreign currency prices. The bulk airtime traders have not been depositing the significant foreign currency proceeds so generated into the banking system but have instead channelled same to fuel trade on the foreign exchange parallel market.
In order to curb this abuse, the following measures shall apply in respect of mobile telecommunication and mobile payment service providers,” said Director General, FIU Mr Oliver Chiperesa.
In line with this, mobile telecommunication service providers shall take steps to decrease the production and sale of bulk physical air time recharge vouchers and promote the increases use of electronic airtime recharge.
Also, they are expected to reduce sales of physical airtime recharge vouchers to twenty percent (20%) of all airtime sales by 31 January 2022 and to ten percent (10%) by 30 April 2022 and to submit a written plan to the FIU no later than 7 November 2021 detailing the measures to be taken to meet the above targets by the set dates.
“In addition to the measures referred to above, mobile telecommunications service providers shall issue circulars to their respective airtime distributors to enforce limits on till-point airtime voucher purchasers. To ensure that customers purchase airtime vouchers for personal use and not for re-sale, a customer shall be allowed to purchase airtime of not more than ZW$10 000 in value in any transaction. A customer can buy up to five vouchers at a time but not exceeding ZW$ 10 00 in value in any way,” said Mr Chiperesa.
According to FIU, mobile money wallets and individual mobile wallet holders must be allowed to conduct cash-in to their mobile money wallets at designated outlets up to ZW$5 000 per week in order to facilitate airtime recharging through customers’ mobile money wallets.
Largest mobile network operator, Econet Zimbabwe Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs Mr Farai Mandiveyi said the company really has no comments on the development.
According to Mandiveyi, their customers can use Eco cash or mobile money platforms to buy airtime.
However, their customers from rural areas need to be registered on Eco cash so that they can be able to buy air time since most of them do not have bank accounts.
An airtime dealer from the streets of Harare who commented on the basis of anonymity feared that the development will starve their families since they rely on such businesses for survival.
“The government must be considerate when they make such policies and create more employment opportunities for the vendors in the streets so that our families will not starve,” he said.
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