Zimbabwean banks have reportedly refused Steward Bank, the wholly owned subsidiary of telco Econet Wireless, access to their ZimSwitch platform, following Econet’s refusal to give them access to its own network platform, thus preventing them from freely rolling out their own financial products. According to AllAfrica, Steward Bank must connect to ZimSwitch, which is majority owned by an association of Zimbabwean banks, in order to link with automated teller machines, point of sale machines and other related online financial service systems. A source familiar with the matter commented: ‘Other banks have lobbied against the admission of Econet’s banking unit [Steward Bank] in retaliation over the mobile phone operator’s refusal to allow banks free access to use its network platform.’
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, earlier this month, Zimbabwean banks reportedly referred the ongoing dispute with Econet to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Unnamed sources explained: ‘There is a feud in the market as banks are up in arms with Econet over its refusal to give them equal cost-effective and tamper-free access to its network for the delivery of mobile-based services.’ Further, George Guvamatanga, the president of lobby group Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ), pointed out that Zimbabwe does not have a legal framework that governs mobile banking services, opening up the sector to unacceptable practices. He said: ‘Econet is literally saying to banks, build your own network; this is pretty much like the Government or National Railways of Zimbabwe saying to someone who wants to go to Bulawayo by train—build your own railway line’.