Last week, Econet announced the coming launch of a mobile payment system. Econet is not calling it Eco-Cash yet publicly but let’s just use that name to refer to it until something official comes along.
Eco-Cash is likely to change a lot of things for a lot of people. Whether you are a mobile operator, a payment services provider, a traditional bank or a more modern bank just starting to offer mobile money services to the millions of unbanked Zimbabweans, Econet will in some way disrupt your business. The company has almost half of the country’s population on its mobile network. That about says it all.
But it’s not just disruption. It’s opportunity as well. Without over-generalising, there’s a myriad of issues with payments right now and Econet has enormous potential to introduce some needed convenience. If they do it right of-course.
For Econet right now, getting it right is key. Econet itself says the success of the service is guaranteed, but we all know nothing in this world is. And Econet knows it too, so we’ll assume the statement was thrown out carelessly like that just to make investors happy (which hasn’t worked so far by the way).
That said, there are some things we hope the new mobile money service will bring to the market. Here they are listed in no particular order:
- Don’t complicate it. If it takes long paragraphs of text in press adverts just to explain how it works it’ll just have a lot of subscribers doing the wait and see before they subscribe. Explain Eco-Cash in simple to understand terms. Simple graphics will do it.
While Zimbabwe boasts of a very high literacy rate it’s not given that people will immediately be at home selecting USSD menus on a mobile phone. Make it as simple as possible to ‘get’.
- Don’t spam us. Nobody doesn’t hate SMS spam. Notify subscribers maybe just once or twice a month of the existence of the service and how they can sign up. A daily SMS dose (remember EcoLife) will just make a lot of subscribers hate the service.
- Make it so it reduces my trips to the bank. I would of course not want to visit the bank at all and just have an account with the mobile operator, but Econet said this is just a payment system, not a mobile network banking service so… Eliminating the physical bank in future would definitely be a great idea but I imagine there are a lot of regulations to put in place (and a lot of incumbents that will block the change) before it happens.
- Call center support. Have a dedicated call center for Eco-Cash support. I tried calling the usual 111 some 5 times just now. Not available at all. Not surprised.
- Don’t make me carry a card around.
- I need to trust the system. I need to know that it was built by seasoned and competent partners. If you can make this information available, even better. Otherwise I’ll wait it out for a bit just see that no customers complain about their money going missing, or that some hackers stole money from their accounts.
I’m not sure Econet has the skills internally to develop a robust and secure payment system, but I could be wrong. If there are any partners involved it would be great knowing who they are. And please, play nicely with your partners. I don’t want my cash locked up while you fight with your partners.
- Simple and transparent pricing. Don’t complicate the price of transacting or have some hidden charges in fine print. Make me know clearly how much I’m charged for what type of transacting. And please, don’t be greedy!
- Online payments. A lot of internet entrepreneurs are dying for an online payment system that works locally. Econet has a golden opportunity to provide a solution here. Provide a way for content providers (musicians, book writers, producers of movies, software developers etc…) to collect payment for their work. Can’t begin to say how much this will change lives.
- A visible willingness to work with partners. By partners here I don’t mean those reselling Econet services, or businesses that have been collecting payments fine without Eco-Cash and therefore just need Econet for the added convenience. I’m talking about entrepreneurs that actually use this platform to create some new innovative solutions for the market.
As a company in the enviable position of running a near-monopoly, the temptation to want to do everything and not work with such partners is there. For the health of the business (especially tech) ecosystem and for its own direct health Econet needs to be working with partners that can innovatively enhance their service offering. Econet needs to have APIs available for VAS and internet application developers. Econet needs to encourage developers to create solutions and connect to the Eco-Cash API for payments. Have workshops even where developers are taught how to work with the Eco-Cash API.
That’s our 2 cents. If you have your own wish list, please share in the comments below.