CFX Merchant Bank has broken virgin ground in Zimbabwe by introducing the first ever payment system under which transactions are done over cellular phones. The system is expected to throw a major reprieve to Zimbabwe’s troubled payments system, currently languishing from an acute shortage of local bank notes.

Lynne Motimer, the CFX Merchant Bank marketing director, said the system was ready to roll out after an extensive trial exercise."The system has been approved by the RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe under the national payments system," Motimer said. She refused to disclose how much CXF had poured into the venture, which will operate as 1-2-1 Cell Money.

But investigations by The Financial Gazette indicated that close to ZWD500 million had been invested into the product.Caroline Mugwanyo, the operations executive for 1-2-1 Cell Money, said contracts had already been sealed with major retailers for payments using cellular phones under the 1-2-1 Cell Money payment arrangements.

Even though 1-2-1 Cell Money is a product of CFX Merchant Bank, one does not need an account with CFX Merchant Bank to open a 1-2-1 Cell Money account, into which a person can make deposits that are fed into a cellphone sim card for purchases.Zimbabwe has experienced a severe shortage of cash that has disrupted a number of key business activities particularly in the retail sector where individuals have to make payments for transactions using cash.

This has resulted in hundreds of people overflowing banking halls in pursuit of cash, which bankers have restricted to minimum withdrawals of between $1,000 and $10,000 per client per day.

The Financial Gazette