Threat to microfinance institutions

WHEN the economy was formally dollarised, TelOne took advantage of that to send out huge bills to its customers.

There was no itemising or explanation of where these amounts had come from. In our case it was over US$500.

I have tried to pay this off at US$100 a month. However last week when I was making my rounds of paying the bills (in the case of TelOne I had received no bill for months), I mentioned that the phone in question had not worked for five days.

I was informed nonchalantly that I had been disconnected. I asked what I had to do to be reconnected, and was told that the bill had to be paid in full — US$380 in total. So I had to come up with another $280.

If I did not pay it before a year had gone by, I would lose the number. I hurried off and found the money and returned to pay the outstanding amount, and asked when I would be reconnected. Not until the remaining $100 was paid, I was told.


When I protested that I had just paid an hour earlier, I was told to bring the receipt.

It dawned on me then that the company upon whose services the banks and building societies depend for connectivity to their mainframe computers had no such connectivity itself –– its business was still conducted as it was 50 years ago, before the advent of the computer.

The printed receipt that the cashier generated in duplicate on his computer was just that — a receipt. And the sum paid was not debited from my account in the main computer — that would be done by hand, with the other copy of the receipt, just as it had always been done.