A nearly cashless Zimbabwe tests the limits of mobile money
By Ryan Lenora Brown
Imagine a world with no money.
Or don’t imagine it. Just go to Zimbabwe instead.
Here, grocery store cash registers still yawn open when a payment is processed, as if by instinct, but where cash should be there are only empty plastic slots. ATMs dot the city like relics of another era, their grey screens blinking a stream of apologies: Out of Order. No services available. We apologise for the inconvenience. Signs at gas stations, maternity hospitals, and even informal backyard bars implore customers to pay by EcoCash, a form of digital currency.
Zimbabwe isn’t totally out of cash, but it’s close. Ninety-six percent of financial transactions here are now done by electronic payments. Exchanges as small as buying a single tomato and as large as purchasing a car are largely completed using mobile money, a form of currency stored and exchanged via cellphone.
Photo courtesy of Erik (HASH) Hersman.