We attended the Econet Solar Green Kiosk launch today which we posted about earlier. The launch took place at the Econet HQ in Harare. The mayor of Harare, Muchadeyi Masunda, officially launched the project. Apart from the main issues we published in the morning, here are a few more details we learnt at the launch:
- 100 units have already been installed in Harare and outlying areas.
- A minimum of 5,000 units will be rolled out countrywide by end of February 2013.
- The Green Kiosks have been in operation for a long time. At least since February 2012 (Econet source), but a lady that operates one in Warren Park insisted she’s had hers since February 2011. So, this is probably the case of a new name to an old product. We think therefore that the “new naming” launch today was just preparation for a much bigger impact (to Econet’s bottom line that is) Econet Solar product. Which brings us to;
- An Econet executive speaking at the event did confirm to the audience that another related and much bigger product was in the works for launch in the coming weeks. He said he didn’t want to disclose much about the coming product just yet but indicated its geared for people that are currently off the national power grid. Which brings us to;
- The Home Power Station (HPS). We took the liberty to ask Econet CEO, Douglas Mboweni, what had happened to the HPS that was announced last year in December, and talked about in June this year when Luc Tanoh (Econet Solar chief executive) confirmed to the media that they were ready for field trials of the device in Zimbabwe. Mboweni responded that they are currently working to ensure that the network is optimized for the HPS traffic but wouldn’t say if this is indeed the bigger product coming. We think it is. In fact, we’re certain it is.
This somewhat also answers the question we had about the confusion of the Econet Energy brand from last year and this Econet Solar brand that’s being pushed more out more. Mboweni’s response to the question was that Econet Energy is the umbrella brand under which Econet Solar falls, but also explained that they had made some adjustments after seeing the response in the market(to Econet Energy). He insisted however that Econet Energy is still there in the background and may produce other non-solar but renewable energy products in the future. Between the lines, what we read is that Econet Energy is gone, for now at least, and that its products – the laterns, the solar chargers, solar phones and other such – have been moved to Johannesburg led and much bigger Econet Solar project.
Moving on to other things, our source for the article we published earlier today had said the community entrepreneurs are renting the kiosks from Econet. We have since established that this is not correct; the kiosks are given to the entrepreneurs for free since, as the Mboweni reiterated, the operators of these kiosks are Econet’s business partners.
This also brings up another issue to note;
Mboweni says the kiosks will exclusively sell Econet products and that they will not allow the community entrepreneurs to sell products by other networks. The CEO also clarified that the free phone charging only applied to Econet customers and not those using rival network sim cards. While this makes commercial sense, we think Econet should drop the “community initiative” tag they are using to push these kiosks. The commercial agenda is clear, and there’s no problem at all being clear about it. A basic case of keeping your customers’ mobile phones charged so they can make more calls and drive more revenue to the network.
Here are a few more photos we took at the event. You can view more photos on our Facebook page.