Money changers feel the heat

THE recent suspension of all agents from mobile financial transactions has hit illegal money changers who no longer have access to large sums of money which they used to move, fuelling the black market.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) last month suspended all money agents except for receiving payments for goods and services as well as payment of utilities (water, power and airtime) and limited daily transactions to $5 000.

The limit means money changers have to make several transactions over a number of days, while the exchange rate would be changing.

This is part of a raft of measures imposed to restore order in the electronic money sector and address proliferating illegal money transfers using mobile money agents.

The Government’s decision has heavily impacted on illegal money changers who can no longer transact as freely as they used to do.

Illegal money changers told Chronicle that most of them have ceased transacting using electronic transfers in Bulawayo.

One of them who identified himself as Tendai said while electronic transfers used to rake up to 30 percent in margins using agent lines, the margins have significantly dropped.

“It’s no longer sustainable trading using mobile transfers because when we used agent lines, we got commissions for every transaction that we conducted. But now when we are using our personal lines, we are charged for every transfer that we are making. Before RBZ suspended the agent lines, I would offer an electronic transfer at 30 percent more than what one got if they wanted cash transfer. But right now, the difference is something like five dollars. Today the rate for mobile transfer is US$1:ZW$80 while for cash it is US$1:75. So you can see that there is no longer any difference whether it’s mobile transfer or cash,” said Tendai.

He said while they were hard hit, he believes members of the public were also feeling the pinch of Government’s measures.

“We were sending money to relatives of some of our clients who are out of town. But the suspension of agent lines has seen most of us preferring to conduct transactions using hard cash as opposed to electronic money. It no longer makes business sense to trade using mobile transfer. Even those whom we worked for have stopped sending money to us,” he said.

Another money changer who declined to be named said he was no longer doing electronic money transactions.

“This has affected my business as previously some people would just call me and request that I send money on their mobile accounts and I collect my cash later. Now I can only trade with those who come to my spot. So, this is really affecting both my clients and me,” he said.

Another trader said he now uses more than one sim card to conduct transactions to exceed the $5 000 limit.

Others said Government measures allowing the public to transact using forex was also affecting their business as people were buying directly from shops without first changing their money.

Supermarkets such as Greens and Oceans are even offering rates that are higher than what is offered by the illegal money changers.

While illegal money changers’ highest rate was US$1:ZW$85 on Thursday, at Greens Supermarket the exchange rate was US$1:95. —