HARARE - The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on Friday launched a five-year financial programme aimed at improving people’s acumen of monetary issues.
Central bank governor John Mangudya said the programme, known as the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (2016-2020), seeks to increase the overall level of access to affordable and appropriate formal financial services within the country from 69 percent in 2014 to at least 90 percent by 2020.
He added that the project also aims to increase the proportion of banked adults from 30 percent recorded two years ago to at least 60 percent by 2020.
“While the strategy focuses on improving financial inclusion for all Zimbabwean adults, the strategy also recognises the needs of special interest groups, namely women, youth, Micro, Small to Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the rural and the small-scale agricultural communities,” he said.
Zimbabwe has, in the past, instituted a number of initiatives to broaden access to financial services.
However, despite the strides made in the pursuit of an inclusive financial sector, gaps still exist in the level of access, usage and quality of financial products and services, as well as the impact on the lives of those consuming the products and services.
Market experts say that the majority of Zimbabweans who lost their lifetime savings to hyperinflation in 2008 are still sceptical of keeping their money in banks.
The 2012 FinScope MSME Survey and the 2014 FinScope Consumer Survey revealed that 23 percent of Zimbabwe’s adult population was financially excluded, while only 30 percent of the country’s adult population made use of banking services as at 2014.
The survey also noted that only 14 percent of MSME owners were banked and only one percent of adult population made use of capital market services.
Further, the World Bank Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy Diagnostic Report of 2014 revealed low financial literacy, despite Zimbabwe having a high rate of general literacy.
Officially launching the scheme, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said financial inclusion, which is typically understood as access to formal financial services such as credit, insurance and secure saving opportunities, has in recent years been identified as a critical engine of economic growth.
“The Zimbabwean economy is replete with opportunities for its populace. The greatest constraint, however, has been lack of access to adequate financial services by the majority of people to exploit these opportunities.
“Financial inclusion shall serve as a critical pathway for uplifting the lives of under-served and marginalised people in our country,” he said.
The Treasury boss noted that access to financial services was the first step in allowing the poor and marginalised to flourish.
“An inclusive financial sector has the catalytic effect of helping the nation to diversify the economy and boost sectors such as agriculture, tourism and manufacturing. When more people save and transact through formal financial institutions, the country will have more resources to invest in various sectors of the economy and in turn create the much-needed jobs as well as reduce poverty,” he added.
Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president Sam Malaba said with more than 76 percent of the adult population earning an average of $200 per month, there was need for strong economic reforms to grow the economy.
“It is a poignant reminder of the underlying need to grow the economy and reduce income disparities for sustainable gains in financial inclusion,” he said.