BH 24 Comment: Banks must be at the forefront of boosting financial inclusion

rbz3Zimbabwe’s banks continue to very lackadaisical when it comes to extending their numerous services to the country’s unbanked.

So much so, that mobile telecommunication companies are now playing a significant part in broadening financial inclusion. The latest FinScope Consumer Survey pays testimony to this fact.

According to the survey, Zimbabwe’s level of financial inclusion has increased from 60 percent in 2011 to 77 percent last year due to the role played by mobile money platforms.

Just to be clear, ‘financial inclusion’ can be defined as the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income segments of society.

There is nothing really wrong about financial inclusion being driven by telecoms.

But it does raise the critical question of where are the banks? Because financial institutions as financial intermediaries between savers and investors influence the volume as well as the manner of mobilisation of savings.

And in any case they are the original and archetypal forms of financial service provision.

So where are they?

First, a number of local banks do not have extensive countrywide reach. And that means a lot of Zimbabweans in some remote part of the country have no access to these banks.

And to be fair, it would be unfair and impractical to compel these banks to extend their services to these remote parts because they may lack the capacity to.

But we do have banks in Zimbabwe with some really extensive countrywide reach. For example, POSB.

The government-owned POSB with 33 branches in all major cities and towns, and should therefore be considered as one of the key vehicles for financial inclusion in terms of spread.

Then there is the other issue of stringent requirements to open a bank account. It has remained largely difficult for an ordinary Zimbabwean to simply open a bank account due to, for instance, the requirement of a payslip.

With the informal sector presently overriding the formal sector, it means the banks are turning away significant potential deposits….monies which will remain outside the formal banking system. It is their loss.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe should therefore be commended for at least trying to push the local financial services sector to engage better with the public. In announcing the 2015 Monetary Policy, RBZ governor Dr Mangudya revised the requirements for the opening of bank accounts, with a view to promoting financial inclusion.

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