Zimbabwe’s financially excluded find a home

Zimbabwe’s financially excluded find a home

Previously marginalized informal players in Zimbabwe are finally feeling a glimmer of hope at the prospect of financial inclusion.

Small to Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) have expressed optimism that the exclusion gap could soon become a thing of the past as Access Forex, a local remittances firm, has placed its hands-on deck playing its part in driving the financial inclusion agenda.

This drive is aimed at achieving the United Nations’ global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, specifically SDG 8 and 10 which seek to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth while reducing inequalities.

Financial exclusion has been dominant in third world countries as self-sustained entrepreneurs in the informal sector have faced challenges around finding robust financial solutions without exclusionary checklists.

To worsen the already existing problem, the global pandemic, Covid-19, has plunged the world into an economic crisis that, unfortunately, did not spare the informal market that has traditionally relied on informal channels to transact.

Worryingly, the global scourge was worsened by an extensive carnage on the job market bleeding economic and social spheres.

Being in the remittances business, Access Forex strives to identify with the struggles that were birthed by financial marginalization and has prioritized responding to the call to make the crisis lighter especially on hardworking migrants, local SMEs and the remittances beneficiaries.

Violet Mutemachani, a 42-year-old Mbare-based entrepreneur who operates from Siyaso Market could not hide her joy as she narrated how her business has found a home with Access Forex.

Mutemachani gets raw materials from suppliers in Mutare, a city 263 kilometers outside Zimbabwe’s capital, and uses the metal to make various essentials that range from baking tins, watering kettles, bathing basins and others.

“We have really struggled to send and receive money. Lately cash has been scarce, and, in some instances, we have been forced to send money with bus drivers. It was slow and involved a lot of risks,” Mutemachani said.

She also explained that informal channels of sending money were unpredictable.

“Sometimes the bus drivers would hike the sending fee when they got to the receiver and this was unsustainable for business. The other time a driver lied to me that the money had been lost and I lost my entire capital,” she said.

Bolden Mbeve Bizariero (29), who also operates from the same area as Mutemachani said the emergence of new players like Access Forex in the remittances play had significantly eased the burden of sending money across the country.

“Since I started using Access Forex, life for me has been simpler. The convenience that comes with knowing that I can send money instantly to my foreman in Bulawayo for him to receive the cash instantly has been unmatched,” Bizariero said.

Access Forex has a mandate to deliver solutions to Zimbabwe’s unbanked populace.

Already, the firm offers cash transfer services, a product driven by market demands.

Priority to serve has also been given to Zimbabweans living the Diaspora, especially those living in the United Kingdom and South Africa for them to send money back home at affordable rates.

Financial inclusion is indeed everyone’s responsibility and it is also complimenting the Government and United Nation’s efforts through sustainable development goals.

Research shows that countries pushing the financial inclusion agenda — which encompasses access to affordable, appropriate financial services — have achieved stronger GDP growth rates and lower income inequality.

For Access Forex, driving financial inclusion goes beyond the bottom line, its aim is to focus on ushering economic empowerment, equality, and access to financial products regardless of gender, social status, or race.

Authors: Mildret Kujinga, Ndakaziva Majaka

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Access Forex Donates Sanitary Wear through Feed a Million Initiative

Access Forex has committed to join the fight against period poverty, by donating 500 menstrual cups and 500 pads in hampers that have been distributed as part of the Feed a Million initiative. The organization, which provides remittance services for Zimbabweans in the UK and South Africa, strives to make a tangible impact on the communities in which it operates. As such, Access Forex has committed a seed of USD 200 000, towards a target fund of USD 1 million, to go towards child-headed homes, orphans and the elderly.

In Zimbabwe, the girl child in vulnerable communities fails to access Sanitary wear due to the high cost of sanitary wear and this leads to many young girls turning to unsafe alternatives. The government has also recognized the need to fight against period poverty, and taxes on menstrual products have been suspended since the 2017 budget. The use of menstrual cups has many benefits. They are medically safe and reusable for years, making them a cheaper and environmentally-friendly option. Menstrual cups are convenient to use, can be worn during all activities including sleeping and exercising, and they do not leak when used correctly. All these factors mean that one menstrual cup can make a positive impact on a girl or a woman’s life for several years.

Dr. George Chirwa, Director of Access Forex, shared the importance of providing menstrual cups alongside the UN-recommended food staples included in the hampers. “Vulnerable girls and women in our communities are further marginalized by period poverty, as they are unable to access menstrual hygiene tools and educations. By providing access to menstrual products, we are playing our part to help dismantle the hurdles that vulnerable girls and women face,” he stated. COVID-19, the subsequent lockdown and the impact on our local economy have impacted access to income, further exacerbating conditions for those already living in poverty. Access Forex will roll out the initiative first in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls before spreading out to provide food aid and sanitary products across the country.

The Feed a Million initiative is rolling out in partnership with Caritas Zimbabwe, an organization whose mandate includes integral human development, emergency relief, advocacy, peacebuilding, respect for human rights and support for proper stewardship of the planet’s environment and resources. Caritas Zimbabwe will not only distribute the menstrual cups but will also educate each recipient on the safe and proper use of the product. Marius Zibgwi, National Co-ordinator of Caritas Zimbabwe, also emphasized the importance of including the distribution of sanitary products as part of the initiative. “There are many issues that intersect to contribute to poverty. We seek to address hunger and poverty through our work, and this strong partnership with Access Forex will help us to work towards dismantling period poverty. By addressing access to sanitary products, we begin to address issues affecting girls’ and women’s participation in education and society as a whole,” he stated.

In this time of national crisis, Access Forex continues to challenge other corporates to join the fight to assist marginalized and vulnerable members of our communities. By collaborating with Access Forex and donating towards the USD1 million goal, local companies play their part in solving local challenges that face the country. The goal to #FeedAMillion is expected to grow beyond the COVID-19 crisis, and Access Forex will continue to implement initiatives to uplift Zimbabweans.

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