Econet Wireless, the country’s largest cellco in terms of subscribers, has announced that subscribers to its mobile phone-based savings service, EcoCashSave, will also be able to borrow money from the company’s partner financial institutions, including its wholly-owned subsidiary Steward Bank. According to a press release, the new service will be launched in early 2014, although no further details on the offering were available at the time. Further, Econet Wireless CEO Douglas Mboweni revealed that the number of bank accounts held by Steward Bank on behalf of EcoCashSave surpassed those held by all another banks put together. He said: ‘We have more than 900,000 account holders, compared to 850,000 for all the banks.’ Subscribers to EcoCashSave can currently open accounts free of charge and no initial deposit is required to activate the account.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Econet Wireless took the strategic decision to acquire a banking licence in order to accelerate the convergence of mobile telephone and financial services. The company gradually increased its share in Zimbabwean commercial bank TN Bank to 100% of the capital stock and voting rights and the subsidiary was subsequently rebranded to Steward Bank after the buyout.