Zimbabwe has a ridiculously complex monetary space. Everything from currency, exchange rates, transacting, and banking to payments processing is complicated to put it lightly. The big buzzword in the space globally is financial inclusion and the SIVIO institute produced their 2022 financial Inclusion of MSMEs report which we got our hands on went through. The report has some very interesting insights to help us understand the Zimbabwean financial landscape as told from the perspective of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Let’s look at some of the highlights of the report and what they mean to us.
About SIVIO Institute
SIVIO Institute (SI) is an independent organisation focused on ensuring that citizens are at the centre of processes of socioeconomic and policy change. It aims to contribute to Africa’s inclusive socio-economic transformation. It is borne out of a desire to enhance agency as a stimulus/catalyst for inclusive political and socio-economic transformation. SIVIO’s work entails multi-disciplinary, cutting-edge policy research, nurturing citizens’ agency to be part of the change that they want to see, and working with communities to mobilize their assets to resolve some of the immediate problems they face.
The report surveyed 1200 Zimbabwean enterprises to come up with the findings we will discuss. The 1200 enterprises were spread out evenly across the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe and assured 63% rural to 37% urban distribution to match ZimStat data about the distribution of Zimbabweans. The enterprises were spread across many sectors and sizes to ensure both diversity and representation in the responses.
The first interesting insight comes in the form of the gender distribution of the enterprises when categorised amongst the enterprise sizes. As the image shows business ownership is equally distributed across genders at the micro size but as businesses grow women become marginalised owning just 29% and 22% of small and medium enterprises surveyed respectively. This is attributed to the barriers to formalising and growing businesses that we will see more of later on.
The image below shows that 70% of enterprises surveyed were owned by people between the ages of 26 and 45. The age distribution approximates a normal 2-tailed distribution which we expect to see.
We have long opined that the RBZ’s foreign currency auction system has not been inclusive of all members of the economy and the inclusion report gives us a deeper glimpse into this. Only 7% of businesses surveyed were registered with the auction system despite the establishment of small enterprise auctions running parallel to the main auction. Of the unregistered enterprises, 40% cited a lack of awareness of the process while 15% did not see the need. The report notes that many micro-enterprises already sell for US dollar cash and do not require the auction.
Only 36% of respondents have access to a bank account. We have long observed the contentious relationship between Zimbabweans and banks and it extends to Zimbabwean businesses. Of the businesses that did not have bank accounts, 31% of the urban ones and 22% of the rural ones were not formally registered and so could not open bank accounts. Looking at it geographically 23% of rural and 48% of urban enterprises have access to bank accounts. 24% of urban and 17% cited the inability to afford bank accounts as the reason for not having a bank account. Finally, 19% of the urban enterprises and 15% of rural enterprises stated they do not feel their money is safe in banks.
58% of enterprises surveyed used mobile money in their business. 73% of those with mobile money used it daily in their business. The report findings also showed a greater reliance on mobile money for bigger businesses with 54%, 66% and 83% mobile money use for micro, small and medium businesses respectively. Cash proved more popular with smaller enterprises for liquidity reasons. Mobile money proved more popular in rural-based enterprises with 65% usage compared to 50% in urban areas. Where users did not use mobile money the major reason was using US dollars for payments, high charges and lack of adequate security.
One of the major conversations about starting businesses in Zimbabwe has been around the lack of funding. The report also surveyed respondents on the sources of funding and the majority (55%) got funding from locally based family and friends. Other sources to note are Remittances (8%), Personal savings (8%), Microfinance Institutions (7%), Banks (6%), Rotating Savings groups aka round (5%), and Government (3%) and Loan sharks (1%).
Access to Loans
Only 14% of enterprises surveyed made loan applications to start businesses. Contrast this with the percentage of enterprises that received funding from banks and microfinance institutions. Of the 86% that did not apply for loans the reasons vary but not being provided by banks (36%) and lack of correct documentation (11%) stand out. Insufficient collateral also covered 6% of respondents.
Where they did apply the reasons for rejection also has some insight for us. Poor supporting evidence of cash flow was the reason for 30% of rejections. Not meeting qualification criteria also registered quite highly with 25% of rejections. Also, take note that 6% cited not being in business long enough as their rejection reason. We took a look at the reasons why banks reject loan applications in this article and it can help you understand some of the reasons given here.
The Inclusion report also cast an eye on insurance. Insurance is an important part of the development of business systems. Only 19% of respondents had access to insurance. The table below shows the distribution across the types of insurance juxtaposed with the size of the enterprise. Not many surprises here as vehicle insurance ranks highest while health insurance (medical aid) ranks lowly. You will find this distribution consistent with the IPEC short-term insurance report.
Where there were no insurance reasons were assessed and the findings below show some interesting insights. For micro enterprises lack of product knowledge, p[rice and the effects of inflation on policies ranked highest amongst reasons for not having insurance. The uptake is higher in small enterprises with reasons for not having insurance largely the same while medium enterprises show a high uptake in insurance.
Saving is important to businesses as it is to the entire economic system. Saving rates in the businesses surveyed were 44% for micro, 60% for small businesses while 83% of medium enterprises had some form of savings. On a geographical basis, the savings rates were 52% for urban enterprises and 47% for rural enterprises.
The method of savings/investment was also surveyed and 51% of those with savings held the savings at the bank. 26% trusted buying forex while only 4% trusted the stock market. 1% of respondents used round/ROSCA as a savings/investment vehicle. The National Mattress Bank was trusted by 5% of respondents.
Where enterprises invested the type of investment vehicle used was surveyed and fixed assets dominated as the asset of choice in 61% of cases. Also notable are rounds (13%), stock market investments (11%) and unit trust investments at 2%.
Investment patterns were also compared to the educational background of respondents and the results had some very interesting insights. Only the master’s degree holders and A level holders showed a big difference (greater than 5%) between those with investments and those without. Across all other education levels investment patterns were within or around 5% of each other.
Access to information
Zimbabwe’s information asymmetry is no secret though some information in the country may as well be regarded as being secret to certain groups. The figure below looks at the information sources used versus the location of the respondent enterprise. The key feature here is that there is very little difference between the sources for the rural and urban dwellers. Informal sources are over 60% in both cases. Rural people rely less on formal information sources but this may have to do with access.
The report concludes with a summary of the findings. Gender plays a part in exclusion from access as noticed in the surveys. Factors affecting access to services are also not evenly distributed amongst the provinces. Lack of information, flexibility and harsh compliance laws are also notable barriers to financial inclusion being experienced by many enterprises. Finally, the report notes that p[romoting products are not enough but those products must be innovative and fit for the target audience.