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Homelink exploring modern tech and financial inclusion

RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe subsidiary Homelink (Pvt) Ltd has been on a drive to buttress government efforts to revive the economy through various projects ranging from diaspora remittances to housing. Last year, Homelink launched a programme to support the growth of micro- enterprises.

Business reporter Cloudine Matola (CM) this week spoke to Homelink MD Desmund Ali (DA) about this and other initiatives. Below are excerpts of the interview:

CM: Homelink has become a name associated with pioneering diaspora remittance services in Zimbabwe. How have you been faring, considering that there are now many players in the market and what is your outlook in 2019?

DA: We have been in the market since 2010 and continue to be a strong force in the remittance space with a market share of 25% as at half year. Our customers are happy and are receiving their hard currency hassle-free. We are actually running a thank you campaign in partnership with Western Union across Zimbabwe, rewarding our loyal customers.

We have introduced bureau de change services at competitive rates in all our 26 branches to provide convenience to all those who require the service and we are guaranteeing cash.

For what remains of 2019, we want to promise our clients United States dollar cash availability, excellent service as well as continuous improvement and innovation on our current offering.

CM: What are the challenges hindering the inflow of remittances from the diaspora?

DA: The South African corridor has challenges in respect of a large population of Zimbabweans who do not have documentation and rely on informal means which include bus and truck drivers, which has a lot of risks.

We need to look at reducing the cost of sending money into Zimbabwe through technology innovations. We are looking at various technologies that will improve cost and provide convenience on that front.

CM: You have various housing projects. What have been the main achievements in the implementation of these projects?

DA: Our recent completed achievement is Brockdale, a high-density development located 4km away from Bindura Town. We have successfully sold 66 units and are selling the remaining units. These are targeted at the low-income earners.

You may have also seen a billboard along Lomagundi Road in the Marlborough area advertising Adlynn cluster homes. Construction commenced mid-August 2019 and we envisage to complete the 13 three-bedroomed cluster houses by January 2020. This project we have set aside primarily for the diaspora market.

We also have land earmarked for development, 190 low-density stands in the upmarket area of Sunnyhill, just after the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo.

As Homelink we are exploring modern technology options so that we can meet the mandate of delivering quality low-cost housing.

In Bindura, we have a demo hydrafoam housing unit which requires no cement and can be completed within two weeks at a fraction cost of conventional construction technology. Homelink embraces the green technology as part of sustainable development trend hence the incorporation of solar technology as a first choice for power source

CM: What is your comment on the uptake over the years?

DA: As we all know, shelter is a basic human right and as Homelink our mandate is to provide affordable quality housing for the diaspora and the local community. We have done projects in Waterfalls, Westgate and Tynwald

Our pricing and mortgages arm has allowed 100% uptake of past projects done in Waterfalls, Westgate and Tynwald.

CM: You set up a programme to support the growth of micro enterprises. What have been the main achievements of this programme so far?

DA: We have mentally empowered over 500 women around Zimbabwe, through firstly training them how to set up and run a successful business. The outreach and training workshops were done in partnership with the University of Zimbabwe, Harare Institute of Technology, Great Zimbabwe University, women’s entrepreneurship development training programme and Harare Chamber of Small to Medium Enterprises.

Our drive is for individuals to participate in economic activity, own and control productive assets which, in turn, lead to development. Instead of searching for employment, they create opportunities that address the unemployment.

We have successfully connected the women to the market through exhibition platforms. As Homelink we are committed to grow the economy via empowering the micro industries and linking them to local and export markets.

Just in April we were at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair where we sponsored 27 women from Matabeleland to participate. We awarded cash prizes to the best exhibits in Rural Entrepreneurship and this went to Bulilima district which had the best Amarula value chain which they extended to make facial foundation for the ladies. The Beitbridge team have since been linked to companies who are now exporting their wares.

CM: What is your long-term view of this initiative and how much have you channelled towards this initiative to date?

DA: To date, we have used about ZW$500 000 towards this initiative. We want to ensure that we cover all provinces in terms of financial inclusion training and to achieve this we will partner with tertiary institutions which help us with the facilitation.

We will also be partnering the provincial agricultural shows to allow for talent identification within the provinces.

CM: Can you give us a glimpse into the future of your various initiatives?

DA: On the property development front, the future is mainly premised on Homelink delivering affordable housing to both the diaspora and the local community.

There are several projects in the pipeline in major cities and towns like Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare, and Homelink shall be establishing presence and grow with upcoming growth points under the financial inclusion aspect, all which we will be advising our clients when they are about to take off.

In the money transfer business we are here to stay and will be expanding our reach as much as we can.

We also have a micro-finance division that specialises in consumer loans which are salary based and can be accessed by civil service and private sector employees at very affordable rates.

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