Tuesday 2018-11-20

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UN-BANKED SWAZIS STUNNED BY HURDLE FREE WITHDRAWALS

By Hlengiwe Ndlovu | 2018-04-16

WHEN Swazi MTN and the two indigenous financial institutions- Swaziland Building Society and Swazi Bank announced that every Mobile Money user could now use ATMs to withdraw cash, people without bank accounts celebrated the most.

 This is because even without a bank account or an ATM card, Mobile Money users will be able to withdraw cash from any Swazi Bank and Swaziland Building Society ATM without producing paperwork or going through the hurdles associated with banks.

At Sigwe, Indvuna Yenkhundla Bongalokukhona Sikhondze has already sampled the Mobile Money ATM facility and describes it as one of the best innovations to have happened to rural people in far flung areas. Even though the nearest ATM from Sigwe is at Hluti, Sikhondze says he did not mind travelling because of the ease with which he would withdraw the cash in his Mobile Money account through an ATM. “What I like about the whole idea is that ATMs barely run out of cash yet sometimes Mobile Money agents have cash flow problems and the Mobile Money user is not guaranteed of getting money from them always,” he said.

Sikhondze, however, was worried that the Mobile Money ATM concept could force agents out of business because of the ease and speed in which they perform transactions. His other worry is that there are no ATMs at Sigwe as the nearest one is at Hluti which is quite a distance to travel just to access an ATM. He suggested that SwaziBank and Swaziland Building Society build more ATMs to bring financial services even closer to people in remote areas. “At Sigwe, we have a new post office and I also think that it would be a good idea to have an ATM next to this post office so that people in our inkhundla do not have to travel far to get money,” he said.

Ngwempisi Indvuna Yenkhundla Mhlonipheni Msibi seems to have adopted the title of ‘marketing agent’ for this innovation as he is well-known for speaking about it in every community meeting he attends. Msibi gets overly excited speaking about this product because it speaks to historically excluded groups like the elderly being able to access money from an ATM without having a bank account. As Indvuna Yenkhundla, Msibi works with the elderly all the time and he is quite familiar with the struggles they face, especially when their grants are paid.

 “Most bogogo (grandmothers) in our constituency do not have bank accounts. As a result, they are forced to wait in long queues on the days of receiving their grants. Many of them receive grants in cash as quite a few have bank accounts,” Msibi said, suggesting the need for government to consider making elderly grant payments through Mobile Money in future because of the ease and convenience this product provides in the financial services market. He said it would be more convenient for the elderly to get paid through Mobile Money as opposed to receiving cash handouts. “I can’t wait for the day when bogogo in my constituency will simply get their grants from an ATM through Mobile Money instead of the long queues they have to endure when they get paid,” he said. In the meantime, Msibi also pointed out the need for educating people about the importance of keeping their Mobile Money PINs a secret to avoid being scammed. Msibi is an advocate of financial inclusion and he believes that the best innovations are those which make life better for the poor and less privileged. In community meetings at Ngwempisi, he has grown the reputation of advocating for financial inclusion for the elderly and when the Mobile Money ATM invention was announced, he never stopped talking about it and advising bucopho to spread the word about it.

Swazi MTN recently announced that Mobile Money tariffs would go up beginning of next month. The company’s Corporate Affairs Manager Mandla Luphondvo explained that Swazi MTN had over the years made huge systemic investments to develop the Mobile Money product to what it is today.

“The primary reason behind the increase in Mobile Money tariffs is the increasing costs of running the platform, plus the innovations that have been introduced since inception. Since the commencement of the platform in 2011, most, if not all the services, provided on Mobile Money have never increased, while some are free,” he said. Despite the proposed tariff increase, Luphondvo assured that Mobile Money would still remain relatively cheaper than bank charges.

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