Home » General » Zimbabwe: CEOs Must Lead Financial Inclusion Efforts

Financial inclusion for the people of Zimbabwe is not a mandate that should be left to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) alone; it is not a mandate that should be left to government or the financial services sector.

The consequences of exclusive growth are extensive and are there for all to see in most, if not all, African countries, Zimbabwe included. For a long time, we were made to believe that economic growth led to welfare improvements. Can we blame ourselves when every economic discussion, newspaper and magazine panels economic growth as the ultimate goal of any country?

The questions that we really need answers to are: Does economic growth really lead to economic development? When your child is growing, does that mean they are developing?

I'm of the view that a child's growth alone without development is not enough unless it is God's will.

Evidence is there in developing economies that economic growth alone has not been able to reduce poverty and inequality. We do not have to go further than our closest neighbour; the country has recorded impressive figures in terms economic growth but the inequality gap continues to increase. This may also be true within our corporates; there are companies that are posting impressive figures but the man on the shop floor remains financially excluded.

They have no access to insurance, no transacting account, are financially illiterate and are at the mercy of payday lenders. Most CEOs assume that every one of their team members are financially included because they are.

The assumption that the benefits of economic growth or company growth would eventually trickle down to lower segments of the society or company and thus correct the inequality has proved insufficient in many countries and companies. It is high time that CEOs of companies seriously considered how much they are contributing to reducing exclusion and to reducing inequality. It's high time that CEOs did employee assessments to see how many in their teams are still being paid in cash. The more the number, the greater the CEOs' contribution to reducing financial exclusion and inequality.

It's surprising that even the cash crisis is not motivation enough for some companies to open accounts for their employees. One wonders how these companies are selling their products or services. How are they surviving in this economy when even the long distance bus operators are opting for point of sale machines? How many customers are they, as CEOs, losing out to the next shop because of technophobia?

Studies have shown that significant Gross Domestic Product growth above 5% would need to be achieved by the sub-Saharan Africa region, merely to be able to keep the number of people below the $2 a day poverty line from rising.

It is a statistic that is not achievable for as long as our growth is exclusive. For as long as CEOs continue to authorise cash payments, that 5% is out of sight. For as long as they authorise cash payment, they are exposing employees to all the risks associated with cash. For as long as cash is "king", we will continue to have economic growth without economic development in Zimbabwe.

It is achievable if CEOs turn their heads and look at financial inclusion with their hearts and not eyes, for their eyes are clouded by politics, company performance and a general fear of technology. It is a statistic that Zimbabwe can achieve if CEOs start believing that financial inclusion is not an RBZ prerogative but theirs as well.

The fact that G20 and other international agencies are involved in financial inclusion and poverty alleviation must be a motivator to both the private and the public sector. As if that is not enough, the IMF and the World Bank are committed to universal financial access by 2020. If that cannot motivate the CEOs, I hope the establishment of organisations, such as the Alliance for Financial Inclusion and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor should at least light a bulb. These are all indications of the seriousness with which inclusive growth is being pursued.

If the IMF and the World Bank are pursuing financial inclusion, why can't we as CEOs of companies in Zimbabwe?

From where we are as a country and where we want to be, my view is that it must be mandatory for all CEOs to ensure that all their employees from the managing director to the dog handler at home are financially-included.

One author suggested that there can never be financial inclusion without digital inclusion; digital financial services are now a must in Zimbabwe. It is a fact that the phone has played its part in digital inclusion, next is financial inclusion. The ball is in the CEOs' court.

Source: Zimbabwe Standard.