A man counts Zimbabwean dollar notes and coins next to a ten US dollar note on the streets of Harare. Picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
HARARE – Bank charges in Zimbabwe are increasing even as experts worry that recent monetary reforms have created a mismatch between foreign currency denominated assets and liabilities.

Standard Chartered Zimbabwe said at the weekend that service charges will go up in September. The bank said services to be affected would include digital and physical banking.

It said bank account maintenance fees would go up from ZWL25 (R1.05) to ZWL45 per month, while initial issue and replacements for Visa gold cards would now cost ZWL75 from ZWL25.

Mobile Banking transaction fees such as funds transfer will go up from ZWL3 to ZWL5, while balance enquiries would surge from ZWL0.08 to ZWL0.80.

“In selecting these transaction types for fee review, we remain cognisant of the need to ensure that banking services remain affordable and accessible to all customer segments in a manner that is sustainable and ensures our ability to provide quality banking services into the future,” said the bank’s operations and service manager Edmore Mashara, adding that the bank relied on multiple external service providers to fulfil its obligations.

He said the external vendors had increased charges, thereby putting pressure on the bank to follow suit.

Insiders said the fees reviews were motivated by a need to protect the revenue base in light of continued weakness in the Zimbabwe dollar.

IH Securities said in a note that the industry in 2018 recorded a profit of $389.8million (R5.94billion) compared to $241.9m the prior year.

Zimbabwe has continued to reform its financial sector through liberalising the exchange rate regime, changing the functional currency from US dollar to Zimdollar, hiking interest rates and approving increases for various statutory fees, although some liabilities for banks have remained denominated in foreign currency.

“The recently introduced reforms can potentially result in a liquidity crisis within the banking sector. First, the floating of the ZWL$ against the US$ has created a mismatch between foreign currency denominated assets and liabilities on some bank balance sheets,” IH Securities said.

Zimbabwe has already seen electricity and petroleum prices go up as the country grapples with an economy that Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube expects to contract 3percent this year.