As you may know, Econet came out yesterday to publicly accuse CABS, ZimSwitch and Kevin Terry of using the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe to fight Econet’s mobile money product EcoCash. The CABS MD, according to campaigning against EcoCash so he can push his own mobile money/banking product, Textacash. Textacash you will remember is basically an implementation of ZimSwitch’s Shared Services platform. And Zimswitch is owned by more than just CABS.
Anyway, we contacted John Mushayavanhu the FBC Group Chief Executive to get his views on the allegations from Econet. (We also contacted CABS, Zimswitch and Kevin Terry by the way and haven’t heard back). First we asked him about Econet’s claim that it is not true that Econet has denied banks access to its EcoCash platform for integration. His response:
For the past two years and long before the launch of EcoCash, Econet has refused to allow banks to connect their mobile remittance service in its capacity as a carrier. It is unfortunate that Econet is trying to confuse the public, regulators and the media by suggesting that the signing of agency agreements for banks to be EcoCash agents is the same as allowing banks to use the Econet gateway. To date Econet has only allowed banks to perform the following tasks, for a tariff:
- Airtime top up
- Payment of Econet bills for post paid clients
- Balance enquiry
- Real Time Gross Settlement
- Mini bank statement
They have refused to allow use of their USSD service to perform the following transactions:
- Mobile to mobile payments on bank platforms
- Zipit to mobile payments
Other mobile network operators, namely NetOne and Telecel have allowed the full range of transactions, including the last two above. By blocking the above two transaction types, Econet have made it difficult for banks to use their mobile banking platforms to enable bank customers to transact on their bank accounts using their mobile phones. This attitude by Econet is contrary to the spirit of system integration as advocated by the Central Bank Governor in his recent monetary policy statement.
Then, Econet’s claim that CABS, Zimswitch and Kevin Terry are the ones using BAZ to fight the EcoCash service by creating an impression that this is the position of all banks:
This is not a CABS issue and it is unfortunate that Econet has resorted to isolate names. The matter affects all banks that wish to offer their clients the funds remittance service using the USSD system which is offered by mobile network operators as carriers, and is therefore a BAZ issue as opposed to a CABS issue. A network operator should carry signals for clients for a tariff in the same way a road owner will allow traffic to pass through and charge toll fees. Using this analogy, what Econet are suggesting is that every car owner should build their own road! The other two operators, NetOne and Telecel have connected banks that wish to use this USSD service with no problems, and these operators are charging for the service.
It is unfortunate that Econet thinks that BAZ can be used by individuals to further private interests.
We also asked if FBC Bank will also be partnering Econet directly i.e. outside the ZimSwitch platform as CBZ Bank and TN Bank have done. He wouldn’t give a yes or no there, just;
As FBC we believe in offering our clients a choice of products in line with our multi-channel distribution strategy. Different clients prefer different products for different reasons.
We are reading that as “Yes, but we would also like Econet to open up EcoCash to us (BAZ, Zimswitch) reciprocally.”
And the BAZ position on the matter?
The official BAZ position on this matter is that players in any sector should play by the rules. Econet, as a network operator should avail its network to banks as they do to any of their clients that use their services without foisting the EcoCash platform as a one size fits all solution.
The FBC position on the matter?
Our position as FBC is that we should be allowed to connect to our clients through mobile networks and offer products we believe should suit our clients’ needs.