Zimbabwean telecommunications operator Econet has launched an international debit card with MasterCard in a move expected to cut reliance on banknotes in the cash-strapped country.
Econet said it expects to issue at least three million debit cards over the next five years, equal to roughly a quarter of Zimbabwe’s population.
The EcoCash mobile companion debit card, which is linked to its mobile money service, is also expected to increase financial inclusion in a country where most people have no formal jobs.
“This is the first time that physical MasterCard debit cards are available to people using mobile money services in Africa,” the companies said in a joint statement.
The card is aimed at reducing dependence on the use of cash in Zimbabwe, which ditched its own currency for US dollars and South African rands five years ago at the peak of an economic crisis.
The dumping of the Zimbabwe dollar for foreign currencies in 2009 helped stabilise the economy and tame crippling hyperinflation.
But it has also created new headaches, including a lack of small change, forcing people to use heavily spoiled notes.
Econet is Zimbabwe’s biggest telecommunications company with nine million subscribers. — Sapa