Sex workers in Zimbabwe: what drove us to accept mobile payments

Sex workers in Zimbabwe: what drove us to accept mobile payments

‘At least, if you’re hunted by the cops, there’s no proof of transaction in hard currency,’ say sex workers using Econet’s mobile money services in Harare

Zimbabwean woman carrying her on her back walks over stagnant sewage water at Mbare in Harare, Zimbabwe, Friday Nov. 21, 2008. About 160 people have died of disease because of bad sanitation in recent weeks, independent groups say.  The lack of clean water and poorly maintained sewage systems have seen the water borne disease thrive. (AP Photo)
Zimbabwean woman carrying her on her back walks over stagnant sewage water at Mbare in Harare, Zimbabwe, Friday Nov. 21, 2008. About 160 people have died of disease because of bad sanitation in recent weeks, independent groups say. The lack of clean water and poorly maintained sewage systems have seen the water borne disease thrive. (AP Photo)

Sitting on the edge of a bed, Zimbabwean sex worker Locardia Ncube explains why clients now often pay her in mobile money rather than hard cash.

“It’s increasing because it’s easier,” says the 26-year-old, wearing a tight white dress. “If he doesn’t have cash, he just sends the money. There’s no problem with that. I will go to collect it tomorrow.”

Ncube is among growing numbers of women and girls caught in the economy’s downward spiral and forced to turn to sex work, which is illegal in Zimbabwe. She charges as little as $10 per session in a down-at-heel flat she rents with four other women plying the same trade in central Harare.

Meanwhile, the streets of the capital are dotted with the logo of EcoCash, the southern African nation’s most popular payment service on mobile phones. Its 15,000 agents nationwide can convert credit sent to phones into US dollars – adopted as Zimbabwe’s favoured currency in 2009, following record hyperinflation – and vice versa.

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