The Sunday News
Chrispen Gumunyu, Business Reporter
THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) diaspora remittances subsidiary, Homelink Private Limited is set to open six new branches across the country as it moves to ensure money from Zimbabweans living and working abroad is sent through formal channels.
In an interview with Sunday News Business on the sidelines of a Homelink Thank You Campaign in Bulawayo last Friday, group marketing manager Mrs Tendai Rafemoyo said plans to open six Homelink Money Transfers branches this year into the next year were underway as the company sought to consolidate its diaspora remittance market share.
“We are satisfied with the 35 percent market share we have in all the remittances that come into the country but we are looking into increasing it by another five percent thus the reason we are planning to set up six more branches in areas we haven’t been operating in,” she said.
Homelink Money Transfers has 26 branches dotted across the country’s major towns. Last year, Homelink Money Transfer system handled about US$200 million in Diaspora remittances.
“In the first quarter of 2019 we handled about US$30 million in remittances coming and about US$200 million was handled for the whole of 2018 attaining for 35 percent in all remittances that came into the country,” said Mrs Rafemoyo.
Remittances from millions of non-resident Zimbabweans are a significant contributor to the country’s economy. For the past three years, remittances from Zimbabweans living abroad have been averaging US$1 billion with the figure only accounting for funds sent home through official banking channels.
However, the diaspora remittances dropped by 11,4 percent in 2018 to US$619, 2 million from US$699 million received in the prior year. The decline in diaspora remittances over the past few years has been largely attributed to the preference to send in-kind remittances by the diaspora and the interception of remittances in South Africa by cross border traders.
Mrs Rafemoyo said the introduction of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019 (SI142) was not going to affect any remittances as the recipients are assured of getting their money in foreign currency.
“Nothing has changed in the remittances space with regards to SI142. All monies received are still being remitted to the recipients in US dollars. Another exciting development is the launch of the Bureau de Change services. Unlike all other Bureau de Changes, Homelink has the capacity to buy any currency from US dollar, South African Rand, British Pound, Chinese Yuan, United Arab Emirates Dirham and the Euro at competitive rates on currency switches or conversion to local currency which is always guaranteed,” she said.
Mrs Rafemoyo said the company was already selling 66 houses built in Bindura under its initiative to construct 30 000 houses for middle-income earners and the diasporan community. In 2015, Homelink announced plans to mobilise US$50 million through local and diaspora bonds to finance the housing project. Under the project, at least 70 percent of the houses that will be constructed will be reserved for Zimbabweans living in the diaspora, while the remainder will be occupied by locals.
“We have a diaspora package that we will be unveiling sometime in September which will be exciting for them so they should watch the space, however, we have already started selling houses in Bindura and the first 66 houses have been bought,” she said.
Mrs Rafemoyo said Homelink was on a countrywide Thank You Campaign aimed at rewarding its loyal customers that have been transacting at its various outlets over the years.
“The company is on a national drive to award over 1 000 customers with different prices and the campaign is system based meaning that all customers who transact via Western Union-Homelink are automatically in the running. The loyalty programme is one of the ways for us to give back and thank our clients. Most of our clients were surprised and thrilled when we called them to advice of the event and prize on offer,” she said.