Banking the Unbanked: Perceptions of the International Cross Border Women Entrepreneurs in Beitbridge, Zimbabwe
Professor. Emmanuel Dumbu (Sabbatical Fellow)
Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Commerce, University of Eswatini, Bag 4, Kwaluseni. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Banking and Finance and Accounting, Faculty of commerce and Law, Zimbabwe Open University, Box 1210 Masvingo Regional Campus.
International cross border trading has increase recognition in Zimbabwe. Women mostly practice the phenomenon although men are taking part in the entrepreneurship. It is always believed in business management process that when one starts an enterprise, a bank account should be opened for the business. Financial inclusion has been embraced as a lynchpin for economic development. Lack of financial inclusion is regarded as a barrier impeding growth of business and hence the economy. The study aimed at documenting the perceptions of the ICBWE on financial inclusion. Literature showed that financial inclusion is a precondition for economic development and the population of a country should find it easy to be banked. In order to get rich data about the perceptions of ICBWE on financial inclusion a case study design was used. A purposive sample was drawn from the population of study. The informants were subjected to semi-structured interviews. The study concluded that although the ICBWE have significantly high educational qualifications that can help them understand and appreciate financial inclusion they had reservations in banking their money with the formal financial system. Members of ICBWE are no longer trusting banking, fear to bank and find no money in the banks next day when they want cash to do their businesses and the minimum withdrawal amounts have affected them and decided not to deposit their money with any financial institutions. Therefore it was recommended that more imports of cash should be done by the government to easy the shortage of cash in the short term. In the long term there is need to develop, lucrative policies aiming at harnessing all the cash from the informal sector like the ICBWE and channelled into the formal banking system through agreement on cash withdrawal on the basis of ability to bank.
Keywords: banking, unbanked, entrepreneurs, perceptions, international cross border.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
In Southern Africa Zimbabwe is leading in the phenomenon of International Cross Border Entrepreneurship (ICBWE). Activities of ICBWE are spreading like veld fire in the communities of Zimbabwe. A sharp rise in ICBWE started to be felt in the early 1990s when the country adopted the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), a policy largely imposed on the developing countries by the world’s major financial institutions aimed at transforming the economies. The policy did not work in Zimbabwe judging on the number of people who were left without jobs resulting in the rate of unemployment rising to unprecedented levels in the country. Both the urban and the rural people felt the punch of ESAP as a sharp decline in formal employment was encountered after adoption of the policy. Ojie (2015) posits that there is need to promote financial inclusion growth in Africa, there are impediments that the ICBE face in their endeavour to be banked by the financial institutions. In Zimbabwe, the ICBWE is dominated by women practitioners. Observations indicate that the women practitioners are generally young and middle aged women who have the potential of having been schooled. According to Chikanda (2017), cross border trading is well-established entrepreneurial activity accounting for about 30-40% of intra trade in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) with Zimbabwe leading the pack. Formal business requires the entrepreneurs to hold a bank account. Observing how the ICBWE are practicing their trade, one can notice that they seem to be facing numerous challenges or they have reservations with the banking institutions in the country. Bank the unbanked is the modern phenomenon in the financial inclusion discourse.
Today’s world is increasingly becoming financialised (Fraczek, Hintosova, Bacova and Sivicek (2017). Women entrepreneurs in any country form the development lynchpin of future financial and money markets. Fraczek et al (2017) in their study of the Visegard group of countries noted that to improve financial inclusion high quality relevant financial education using modern forms and tools is critically called for. However, the current situation in Zimbabwe is that banking institutions do not have efficient financial education. That is why there is high financial exclusion especially when it comes to women entrepreneurs. More often than not, this cohort of entrepreneurs is omitted in the spectrum of business because their activities are informal. Many financial institutions seem to favour transacting with the formal enterprises leaving a financial gap in the process. Studies by Lusardi, Mitchell and Curto, 2010; Witbooi and Ukpere, 2011; Oji, 2015 Dumbu, 2015; Essien, Gbegbe, Kpunee and Piabari, 2016; Asongu and Nwachukwu, 2017) on financial inclusion, have summarily indicated that there is high unsatisfactory degree of financial inclusion. The studies slapped the blame of financial institutions failing to do their best to deliver financial services to the unbanked members of the economy.
Chikoko and Mangwendeza (2012) argued that financial inclusion is a trajectory of ensuring access to full bouquet of financial services at effective and efficient levels dignifying the population of a country without any form of discrimination. People of all ranks in the society are expected to access financial services without deprivation and prejudice. The above argument is based on the principle that financial inclusion is the veritable vehicle for economic development. Financial institutions in any country have to expand their financial infrastructures in a holistic manner to embrace all potential banked individuals. Asongu and Nwachukwu (2017) in their current study on recent financial advances in information technology for inclusive development noted that Africa have a high portion of financially excluded people, which is a danger to the economy because financial exclusion is usually associated with extreme poverty. Both developing and developed nations have embraced financial inclusion as a tool for boosting economic development. In fact, financial inclusion becomes an immediate acquisition and distribution vehicle of capital in the economy form the surplus side to the deficit side for capital deepening. In order for financial inclusion to be of benefit to the economy it should start with rules that are responsible to the needs of everyone in the economy indiscriminate of gender, age, religion or economic activity status (Wibooi and Ukpere, 2011).
In the competitive global environment, women entrepreneurs’ access to banking facilities is a key success factor for sustaining competitive advantage in entrepreneurship. Failure to access banking facilities and remaining largely excluded from banking exposes the women entrepreneurs to many challenges that have to do with loss of their hard-earned cash to robbers and other natural catastrophes like fire guts (Chinomona and Maziriri, 2015). In many cases the ICBWE keep their cash in their houses than banking keeping it with banking institutions. Such traditional ways of keeping cash limit the ability of the ICBWE’s ability to expand their capital base as their cash is outside the banking institutions. For example, when these women entrepreneurs need funding to expand their businesses, the banks discriminate on people who do not hold accounts with them when it comes to extending loans.
It has been noted earlier on in this document that the international cross border trading is heavily dominated by women entrepreneurs. Witbooi and Akpere (2011) opined that women venture into cross border trading merely to augment their family incomes but their remained unbanked. When it comes to repayment of loans, the study established that women pay better than men do but they are highly excluded from the banking sector participation. Mago and Chitokwindo (2014) argued that access to financial services has remained difficult to women, other vulnerable low income, and unemployed individuals in the society. Traditionally, the blame for failing to harness the unbanked women in the society is levelled against those banking institutions failing to develop banking instruments that are easy to afford by the public.
Zimbabwe faced one of the worst economic turmoil in 2008 due to hyperinflationary environment, which swept across the entire sectors of the economy. Many of the banks and financial institutions collapsed sending a shock wave to the general risk averse entrepreneurs. Some of the banking individuals and companies lost their life savings to the collapsing banking institutions (Chikoko and Mangwendeza, 2012). Hyperinflationary environment encountered in 2008 led to the loss of banking confidence in the business and individuals forcing people to prefer to hold on their cash as store of value (Dumbu, 2015). In 2009, the government dollarized the economy and adopted the multi-currency regime. Despite that lucrative policy introduced by the government, penetration rate measured by amounts of bank accounts held by the banks, banking remained low in the banking institutions (Chikoko and Mangwendeza, 2012). Advent of technology such as the introduction of electronic banking did not manage to dislodge financial exclusion in Zimbabwe. Only those individuals who possessed bank accounts are benefiting from the introduction of technology in the banking sector but those who do not hold bank account do not benefit from it. Essien et al (2016) indicated that proliferation of information technology communication has not completely managed to bridge the gap in the financial infrastructure, as a more and more women remained financially excluded.
Mbengo and Phiri (2015) in their study on mobile banking adoption in rural Zimbabwean marketing showed that there are improved transactions. Although the way people transact today have improved and transformed due to introduction of electronic commerce gadgets such as mobile banking with cellular phones, women in the cross border entrepreneurship have not changed their behaviour. International cross border entrepreneurship demand a cash economy where goods and cash are exchanged not using plastic money like swiping and Ecocash, the methods, which have dominated the Zimbabwean business arena due to shortage of cash. To the cross border entrepreneurs, the call by the government to the public to engage in transaction using plastic money negates the business. Transactions for international entrepreneurship start with the initial exchange of hard currencies to the currency of desire by the entrepreneur. In the face of foreign currency shortages in the country the ICBWE find them with no option but to keep their money at home than banking. This means that the financial exclusion phenomenon of the ICBWE is something engraved in the economic fundamentals that are experienced in the country now where entrepreneurs are living on hand to mouth. Banking, theoretically is done when one has excess of cash to use that forms currently the bulk of transitional motive for holding cash (Dumbu, 2015).
Many factors can be attributed to contributing to financial exclusion of the ICBWE in Zimbabwe and Africa at large. Majanga (2016) concurred that the major impediment to financial inclusion is the lack of several variables that motivate individuals to deposit their money with banking institutions. One of the variables identified was that individuals would expect the easy of withdrawal of their banked cash at any time they wish to do so. In Zimbabwe the prerequisite set above, which is a prerequisite for improved access to finance such as availability and ease to withdrawal have pushed the majority of the individuals including ICBWE out of the banking sector. Observable banking individuals are those that are formally employed and are salaried workers where the regulations in the country are that all salaries have to be deposited into bank accounts. However, as soon as the salary is deposited, queues start to form at banks individuals struggling to withdraw whatever in their accounts. Basic principles of banking and financial inclusion gives the financial sector a torrid time for them to be able to bank the unbanked at all costs if the financial sector is to be the lynchpin of economic development. A strand of literature on financial inclusion exists focusing on the broad dimension of the phenomenon on rural poor and low-income persons without giving attention to the contemporary issue of ICBWE. This forms the reason for establishing why ICBWE are remaining financial excluded in Zimbabwe when the country boast of the literacy rate set above many countries in Africa. Witbooi and Ukpere (2011) argued that lack of education is one of the factors that lead to financial exclusion of women. Ironically, Zimbabwe has over 80% literacy rate. That is enough for individuals to know and acknowledge the benefits associated with being banked.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Zimbabwe is experiencing high volume of ICBWE at the Beitbridge border post. After the economic hardships experienced by the country in 2008, many people lost their formal employment. Such people and others have joined the bandwagon of international cross border entrepreneurship. It shows that the international cross border trading is a vibrant and profitable entrepreneurial activity, which means those involved in it get some money. The worrisome situation on the ground is that those ICBWE seems to hold no bank accounts to deposit the proceeds from their ventures. Therefore, the present study seeks to document the perceptions of the ICBWE’s financial exclusion in Zimbabwe focusing on Beitbridge border post.
The study sought to:
- Explore reasons why ICBWE do not have bank accounts with financial institutions in Zimbabwe
The study was guided by the following research question:
- Why do ICBWE do not hold bank accounts with financial institutions in Zimbabwe?
In light of the advantages of interpretivism versus positivism ways of gathering and analysing data the study takes the qualitative design on reason that such studies accords researchers the opportunity to deal with informants in the natural setting. It is anticipated that this approach would help researchers to explain complex phenomenon in order to answer the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions (Creswell, 2013). ICBWE issues need to be understood largely in narrative or descriptive ways. Because qualitative studies are grounded in interpretivism, the method was determined appropriate because it seeks to explain phenomenon under study from a holistic perspective (Atieno, 2009; Joshi, 2011; Madill, 2015). In our attempt to explain perceptions of the ICBWE financial inclusion constructs and realities, this design helped to come up with different angles than just using a single lens to view perceptions of the ICBWE in relation to financial inclusion. According to Joubish, Khurram, Ahmed, Fatima and Haider (2011) qualitative research provide descriptions of what is going on in the lives of phenomenon understudy. The other advantage the researcher was in immersed in the natural setting of the people whose thoughts and feelings are explored by seeing, hearing and experiencing their world. My thinking was that perceptions and interpretations form the basis of ontological investigation. In qualitative research paradigm, there are several research designs that can be used to guide the study. In this study, the narrative inquiry design was used.
3.1 Research design
The study used the narrative inquiry as its research design because this approach gives a renewed attention to informants to express their views and or experiences. This is the reason why narrative inquiry is gaining momentum and more preferred as a method of understanding a phenomenon across a wide range of disciplines (Hunter 2010). The theoretical underpinning of narrative inquiry is the belief that humans tell stories of their lives, actions, and choices. Spencer-Oatey (2013) viewed narrative inquiry as more appropriate qualitative research method because the method has the potential of yielding contextually rich information that touches on real-life experiences of informants as they tell their real life stories about real life experiences in a natural setting (Bense, 2010).
3.2 Sample and sampling technique
The study drew a sample for interviews from selected international coaches that transport people between South Africa and Zimbabwe at the Beitbridge border post. As Marshal, Cardon, Poddar, and Fonternot (2013) say that in qualitative researches there are no hard and fast rules of determining sample size given that what is considered important is quality of data collected by the researcher. What is more important is to interview informants who will provide answers to the research questions (Hunter 2010). For this reason, informants were selected using purposive sampling. The sampling method gave the researcher the position to have a clear rationale and fulfil a specific purpose related to a research question (Carlsen and Glenton, 2011). Although a sample in qualitative research is selected purposively, it provides detail subjective descriptions from informants taking into consideration emic as well as etic perspectives to postulate findings (Joshi, 2011). The study used purposive sampling as a procedure. In using this method, it was anticipated that informants who were knowledgeable and experienced about international cross border entrepreneurship were interviewed. Informants were selected based on accessibility and experiences in this method. In this study, critical cases were selected and then examined.
3.3 Data generation instrument
With the nature of research informants under investigation the research could not opt for developing and administering a questionnaire The nature of ICBWE does not suit that instrument for data generation because these informants have to be visited on site doing their daily activities to irk a living. The best instrument to generate data was therefore semi-structured interviews. Visiting and interviewing the informants at their sites gave the research an opportunity to observe and interact with the informants in a more comfortable manner. Conversation with the informants need to be in a relaxed manner which allow the interviewees to say more about their significant lived entrepreneurial challenges faced in international cross border trading.
DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
Financial inclusion has been accepted worldwide as a lynchpin for economic growth and development. Proponents of financial inclusion have alluded to the fact that if possible all members of the society must be banked though accessing all financial services at effective and efficient levels dignifying the population without discrimination. Business, under normal circumstances, has to transact with the formal financial institutions, which act as the intermediary between the surplus cash side and the deficit cash side of the economy. Such transacts are always regarded as pinnacles of high performance of the enterprises and the whole economy. Responsibility is given to the financial institutions to mop up the unbanked individuals of the society into the formal financial system. However the situation in Zimbabwean seems to be different from the normal operations of the formal financial system. Many people including the business side are not banking with financial intermediaries. The current study documented the perceptions of one of the vibrant informal sector in the new millennium, the ICBWE perpetual exclusion from the formal financial system despite the ability of the sector to generate volumes of revenue in the entrepreneurial activities.
In 2016 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe launched a laudable decrease in bank charges for cash withdrawals. This was done responding to the public outcry over exorbitant fees being charged by the banks to the public account holders and corporates. The revised and lowered withdrawal form Automated Teller Machines was pegged at 1% and 1, 25% of total amount withdrawn over the counter. Efforts by the RBZ were to ensure an on-going effort to promote financial inclusion by assuring that the banking products and services are affordable to the banking public. Against this background, the ICBWE continued to shun banking. Their perceptions on reservation for banking are detailed below.
4.1 Shortage of cash in banks
Zimbabwe is facing a critical shortage of cash in its formal financial system. People are seen in queues day and night jostling to access the little amount allocations the banks can afford to offer for the day, if ever there is something to offer. During other days people queue to be told that there is no cash at for that day. The situation of cash shortages could have been fuelled by the individuals and companies that siphoned cash into their international bank accounts or using it for personal investments international. Cash externalisation has serious impacts on cash availability in the economy and it disturbs the formal operations of the formal financial system of the country. Shortage of cash has triggered the alternative route of safekeeping of cash by the ICBWE resorting to keeping it in their houses or any other places, which are not banks. As such, this exacerbated the continued financial exclusion of the vibrant economic sector that has the potential of bringing in the much-needed foreign currency into the country. The study established that the ICBWE are equally affected by shortage of cash in the banks. As a result they resort to safe keeping the money in their houses. Against this background of shortage of cash is the maximum allocation that an individual depositor is allowed to withdraw from the bank per week, which stands at $300. The ICBWE are finding the weekly maximum withdrawal as prohibitive to banking their hard-earned cash. One of the informants submitted the following:
Withdrawing cash has become a nightmare in Zimbabwean banks. Even if you deposit your money today and come tomorrow to the bank, you will not be able to withdraw it because of cash shortage being experienced by the country.
Sensing the problem of banking and failing to withdraw money from the banks has frustrated the ICBWE forcing them not to transact with the formal financial institutions. All their proceeds from the international entrepreneurial ventures would not find their way into the formal financial system of the country. Millions of dollars are circulating outside the formal financial system, as the ICBWE are reluctant to bank their money. Banking, under normal circumstances has to give convenience to the banking public through easy access and availability of their cash. When it is no longer the norm in business transactions individuals confines their cash to themselves. Foreign currency transactions used to be done by the banks but today the ICBWE are dealing with money-changers on the streets. Many public places have been turned to places of currency trading. Activities of those trading currency get business from the ICBWE who need money for their entrepreneurial activities, which demand cash. Thus banks are shunned for the failure to avail cash on demand and limiting cash withdrawals. Shortage of cash and withdrawal limits are viewed as punitive measures acting as deterrent factors to financial inclusion of the ICBWE.
One of the informants gave the following comment:
Cross border trading requires large sums of money. If you bank your capital and profit today, you go to the bank tomorrow only to be told that your maximum daily withdrawal is only $20. What can I do with such a small amount when my business needs thousands of dollars to make an order, travelling, food, accommodation and other small expenses?
What can be inferred from the above sentiments is that the whole issue is not about non-availability of cash but the root cause of the latter. If people were accessing their cash with easy, the ICBWE were going to bank and become financial included. The situation obtaining on the ground economically exacerbated by the unfriendly economic condition that has experienced large capital flight into other countries without reciprocity of capital inflow into the country has worsen the situation. If this situation continues unabated, has the potential of continued financial exclusion of the potential banked sector of the informal sector considering the large capital outlays that are involved in the entrepreneurial activity of international cross border trading.
4.2 Perceived lack of trust on banks by ICBWE
ICBWE have developed their own model of banking operating parallel to the formal banking system. Small groups are formed which agree on certain amount of money to be contributed by each individual. In South Africa such association is called Stokvel, an association for pulling savings of the members. In Zimbabwe the association is called ‘mukando’. The society gets contributions from the members, which are very huge and kept by a chosen treasurer of the formed committee.
That money is not banked because members have the fear that they may not be able to access it when need arises. What is indicates is that ICBWE are no longer trusting the banks to handle their money. Lack of trust of financial institutions by the public is a serious factor that perpetuates financial exclusion of the public. In Zimbabwe the public has lost confidence in banking because some people lost their hard-earned cash during the economic turmoil experienced in 2008. Form that time people are not certain of whether the banks guarantee their deposits on demand. This also has affected the ICBWE who are not rusting banks anymore and resort to their private banking with societies that they form. Sometimes the association loans money to the members and non-members for a profit. The earned interest is distributed among members at the specified and agreed time of the year. According to the ICBWE the association is more than a mechanism to save money but also provides extra services such as a safety net for emergencies. One of ICBWE member expressed, ‘when one is in urgent need of money you do not need to go and queue for it at the bank and after wasting time in the queue you are told that there is no cash today. It quite frustrating to deal with the banks these days but our society can provide any amount you want at any time of the day”
In cases of emergencies, like illnesses, accidents of funerals cash should be available to oils processes. ICBWE indicated that community based organisations such as the associations that they form provide flexible support to the members that are perceived as financial excluded from the formal financial system. The associations that are form sprouting because of mistrust between the entrepreneurs and the financial institutions have forced the ICBWE to remain outside the financial system of the country. The association formed by the ICBWE creates a platform for business forums to exchange business ideas apart from providing financial services. With the current status quo of the financial system in Zimbabwe the ICBWE are comfortable outside banking. It will be very difficult to convince them that banking has benefits so that they are financial included in to the formal financial system.
4.3 Level of financial literacy among ICBWE
Financial inclusion of the entrepreneurs in any economy is regarded as the special attention gearing on improving outlook of the financial sector because entrepreneurs such as ICBWE are the potential participants in the current and future financial markets. Role, awareness and skills of usage of financial products offered by financial institutions today influences the current and future functioning and development of financial markets driving the whole economy to success levels. The whole trajectory of financial inclusion to influence entrepreneurs and in particular the ICBWE depends on the education level of the practitioners (Laserdisc et al, 2010). To have a significant active participation of the ICBWE in the formal financial stream, there is need to equip them with finer details off financial education such as the need to hold a bank account for safe custodian of one’s cash and other benefits surrounding the concept of being banked. The view that education plays an important role in financial inclusion was challenged in the present study as it was established that the practitioners of cross border trading had the minimum education levels of Ordinary Level and above with some holding university degrees ranging from Bachelors’ to Master’s degrees. Undeniably, the practitioners of international cross border trading have the minimum education that can assist them understand the point of being banked and the obvious advantages of banking but they continued to bark that them would not bank their proceeds. What it means is that there are other factors besides lack of financial education that deter ICBWE from banking than the fact that they may not have the financial education to understand the functions and benefits of financial inclusion. The level of education possessed by the informants can help them understand the functions of the financial system in the country and have an understanding of benefits of being banked. However they retorted that banking with the current financial institutions is of not benefit. This view has kept the ICBWE operating outside the formal financial system and remained unbanked hence financial excluded.
V. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The study concluded that ICBWE remain financial excluded because of the stringent operations of the financial institutions in the country who impose cash withdrawal limits accompanied by shortage of cash in the banks. The problem of cash shortage deters the practitioners of international across border traders from banking their proceeds as expected in the management of business that an enterprises should bank with the banking institutions for safe custody of cash. The ICBWE do not trust banks, as they fear to lose out their hard-earned cash when they bank it. The study recommended that there is need to establish methods by banks to be trusted by every potential customer in the economy. In order to invigorate and sustain economic growth trajectory, Zimbabweans must think big and remain in the renewed spirit of unity, optimism and determination to work together as a nation to solve the current problem of cash shortages in the formal financial system. The current cash crisis bedevilling the economy cannot be overcome overnight but there a short term measures that can be put in place to harness the problem. The possible approach is for the government to loosen some of the punitive policies that are not investor friendly so that the country is positioned strategically to attract foreign direct investment as a matter of urgency. It is again critical to look at the availability of cash in two lenses, one for the benefit of local financial inclusion and the second on assuring foreign investors of their cash.
Availability of cash in the economy will attract the ICBWE to participate in the formal financial system and become banked. Government must increase foreign currency importation as a short-term measure. The long-term measure is for the government to resuscitate the dilapidating industries that used to generate foreign currency for the country through exports. An export incentive scheme targeting the international cross border traders can assist in alleviating cash shortage in the country. If the government can put in place through the RBZ a policy allowing these entrepreneurs to bank and withdraw the amount to the tune of their deposit, more cash can be availed to the banks. Financial institution should be innovative by creating financial packages responsive to the current challenge. They can adopt the policy of banking and withdrawing cash on the proportionate of amount banked. Individual entrepreneurs should be given the priority to withdraw cash at any time depending on their deposits that they would have made. If banks assured depositor about the availability of their cash many people, including the ICBWE would be financially included into the formal financial system of the country.
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