NetOne to add 4 million subscribers after decree on coronavirus grants

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HARARE – Struggling state-owned cellular network NetOne will get a kiss of life after the government controversially decreed that nearly four million beneficiaries of coronavirus grants would be paid through its One Money mobile payment system.

One Money is currently used by just one percent of the population, while Econet through its EcoCash service handles over 98 percent of mobile money transactions, according to industry regulator, POTRAZ.

The government says NetOne offers a better deal.

“As we register people for the grants, we give them a NetOne SIM card. We have entered into an agreement with NetOne such that when they [beneficiaries] get a line, they also get a ZimSwitch bank card they can use to swipe when transacting in shops,” social welfare minister Paul Mavima is quoted as saying by The Standard.

The government said it would hand out $200 Zimbabwe dollars (US$8) to vulnerable individuals affected by the 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, including informal traders.

Small and medium enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni said: “Econet is very expensive and NetOne charges are very low. It’s for their own good (the beneficiaries) so that they make the best of their money.

“No-one is saying they should stop using EcoCash, but for this scheme, it’s NetOne.”

Mavima said $90 million was ready for disbursement this week, and was expected to cover about 450,000 “vulnerable people including those who work informal jobs and survive from hand-to-mouth.”

“Beneficiaries will get $200 each, so if it’s a family of four, they get $800,” Mavima said. “The initial allocation that has come is $90 million, but we anticipate getting additional resources because we are targeting as much as a million people to begin with.

“That $90 million is capable of covering 450,000 people.”

The government hopes to distribute the one-off grants to as many as four million people – and if each beneficiary signed up to NetOne, that would be a major boon for the company. – ZimLive