Ecocash Scraps Off Transaction Fees For Below $1 Transactions, Push For Kombi Fees By Ecocash

Tinashe Nyahasha Avatar
EcoCash CommuterOmnibus, kombi

Zimbabwe’s largest mobile money services provider, Ecocash has set its site on the sub dollar economy. They have now scrapped off transaction fees for all below dollar transactions when paying for goods and services at merchants.. Their advert campaign is directly speaking about paying for kombi fees.

Pay merchant and not send money…

When I first saw this my immediate question was, “Are they scrapping the fee for all transaction types or just paying merchant?” I asked Ecocash and they confirmed my suspicion that this was for merchant payment and not every type of transaction. This made sense to me because that is exactly the strategic play I expect from Ecocash.

Side note

Ecocash has exhibited stellar strategic foresight and execution right from the beginning. They are a worthy case study for anyone interested in tech business models on the African continent particularly how to get it right and dominate a market. We have a write-up on this that we did a few months back. To buy it send an Ecocash payment of $4.99 to the Techzim Merchant Number 83688 then email the payment confirmation and we will send the write-up to you. If you want to use any other payment method please email send an email and we will assist.

Back to strategy:

Why ‘pay merchant?’

First off, Ecocash wants to own the merchant relationship. They now have 50 000 merchants that accept Ecocash payments across the country. This is almost 20% more than the number of Zimswitch POS and ATM terminals combined. Ecocash is thus the undisputed king of consumer payments. If they get public transport operators as they have set their sights to do then it will be difficult for anyone to touch them.

Keep it in

For all intents and purposes Ecocash has become the de facto cash in Zimbabwe. All with the exception of kombi and musika (public transport and vendor stalls) purchases. The reason why most people who are still queuing up for cash are still doing so is mostly kombi fare: hwindi anongoda cash and no other mode of payment (the conductor only wants cash). By attracting the kombi ecosystem to Ecocash, the mobile money operator will be able to keep a bit more of Zim’s funds on their platform.

The bigger game is utility

The bigger deal for Ecocash is making their service a no brainer for every Zimbabwean. They want to make it the most logical and only choice for the cashless Zimbabwean population. It’s not about transaction fees, it’s about locking users in. This has been the fintech company’s thinking from day one and that’s why they have 98% market share.

Other mobile money players

There has been too much emphasis on the agent in this sector. The POTRAZ reports report on numbers of the agent network and there’s no mention of the merchant network. It is merchants that are most useful especially now that there is no cash to ‘in or out.’ Ecocash’s competitors have been focused on expanding their agent network and not doing enough to increase the merchant network.

Agents were very critical at the beginning when people didn’t understand what mobile money was. Ecocash understood this of course and they built a bigger network than anyone else to the extent that rivals wanted infrastructure sharing to apply to mobile money agents too. Right now they have 30 000 agents and they can afford to bar any one of them for violating whatever terms they have because Ecocash is now more important to the agent than the agent is to Ecocash. Competition should see that too.

OneMoney or Telecash could have moved on kombis first

OneyMoney or Telecash had the bigger opportunity to be first with kombis because they have the Zimswitch debit card. They are the ones who should have invested in and pushed Kwenga like devices. They could have deployed these in kombis faster than Ecocash could say ‘Merchant.’ I am disappointed they didn’t see this one.

Hwindi’s are gonna resist obviously

Drivers and their conductors will most probably resist accepting Ecocash because this means transactions will be on the record and so yemusana dololo (they won’t be skimming off from their employers’ takings). I don’t know if they can hold off against market forces though nor against Ecocash’s doggedness. We will see…

Downside to Ecocash for kombis for ordinary folks in the kombi

The little downside to this development is that it may make it easier for kombi operators raise fees. Right now the kombi fare is locked in at $0.50 because cash is super scarce and because change is a problem. Ecocash presents neither of those constraints.


Remember to buy Techzim’s write-up on the Ecocash strategy: just send an Ecocash payment of $4.99 to the Techzim Merchant Number 83688 then email the payment confirmation and we will send the write-up to you. If you want to use any other payment method please email send an email and we will assist.



  1. ThinkBig

    Why don’t they just sell preloaded bus cards. The boarding terminals would have to change of cause and we would go back to something similar to the Zupco era. for those who board buses intransit will still swipe their cards.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      In the spirit of getting in early and creating customer lock in this is the best implementation. The more robust solution needs politicians on board and those guys ain’t gonna do anything before 30 July

  2. Naison S Sibanda

    All EcoCash Transactions below $1 were always FREE.

    1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      True, transactions below a dollar were already free. It’s old news.

    2. Tinashe Nyahasha

      My bad
      Someone from there sent me that info this morning and I assumed it was new. Should have searched Techzim at least.
      I still think the analysis holds though. I see they are starting to push that aspect of things especially the pay for kombi bit which I think further validates my analysis if we can call it that (my thoughts is more accurate perhaps)

  3. Taps

    Back in 2008-2010 when i was in Kwekwe,if a kombi had no change,they would give u a ticket which u would use again any other day ,that same ticket u could exchange it for tomatoes etc from vendors coz they would use it aswell when they go to source their goods.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Yeah I remember that in other places too but I had not seen that extent where other vendors would accept the tokens themselves.
      I think that emphasises the point that kombi fares are not hiking because of change. The money is not as divisible byond the dollar into half and a dollar is too much for kombi so it defaults to 50c

  4. concernedcustomer

    I noticed you didn’t mention Telecash, but from the information available they are the ones to introduce the zimswitch debit card first.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      My bad. Yes they have and they have had it for a long time. Including them in there

  5. Ndlovu

    We will just have to see, because Ecocash once tried kombis if you remember….when you would pay half the price when using Ecocash but then the hwindis and drivers resisted still

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Yes they did
      I think the difference now is that cash is now crazy scarce so they could try to stimulate the demand side. If enough people demand it and a good number of early adoptor kombis take it they may win this time. It takes a few kombis that just say those with ecocash come
      Ecocash will need to push hard though, so far their culture has allowed them to effect such changes. This is the opportune time to try once more because people are tired of bank queues just so they get a lil cash for kombi
      Let’s wait and see

  6. Worried

    They using the cash to sell sale with airtime cards so it’s going to be a hard sell

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Didn’t get you there

  7. Situpeti

    I don’t know about you guys but some kombis are already accepting Ecocash (unofficially) so instead of 50c, you send money, $1, to the driver or hwindi. They (kombi crew) have initiated it already

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Really? Hey but that’s a premium of 100%. Too much!

      1. cr@p funds

        gives you an idea of what ecocash/rtgs/bond cr@p is really worth !!