EcoCash vs Banks: Econet is trying to confuse everyone, says FBC’s Mushayavanhu

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Bankers Association of ZimbabweAs 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.

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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.



40 Comments

  1. zimictfan says:

    I smell a rat. Is this Mushayavanhu dude being used or what? As far as I know he is not the President of BAZ. So in what capacity is he speaking on behalf of BAZ when there is a President? Who banks with FBC anyway and who will they offer whatever imaginary product they think they have? At least CABS have TEXTACASH to offer!

    1. Tich says:

      Isnt he the BAZ president?

      1. Jethro says:

        No he’s not.

    2. guest says:

      He is a member of BAZ by being Group CEO of FBC (all bank CEO are members, see http://www.baz.org.zw). I understand he is also a major shareholder in FBC and the immediate past President of BAZ. So he is very qualified to speak on behalf of banks & BAZ.

    3. FrustratedTechie says:

      Dude Mushayavanhu is defending the position of his bank which is a member of the BAZ. Why are you immediately assuming he’s being used? And as a matter of fact FBC have a similar product to Textacah called Mobile Moola, do you read the papers? Your comments are unfounded!

  2. Magneto says:

    Econet is allowed to make strategic decisions to remain with a competitive edge esp. after dolling out millions. Telecoms companies have been approaching these banks since the 2000 era to invest in Telecoms services and they have been flatly rebutting them. At one point Zimbabwe needed a Satellite Hub and none of these banks moved a finger. After that Zimbabwe needed a connection to the undersea cable again Telecoms firms had to find their own resources. Now Econet has invested at their own risk and expense and the vultures and hypocrites are now all of a sudden eager to come to the party!

    1. blueb says:

      So Econet musnt distort the facts

    2. Haiwawo says:

      Thank you Magneto. Well put, vultures and hypocrites. Right now Econet has running loans with Institutions out there, (afreximbank as an example), it had to source its own financing and also getting delivery of equipment on ‘hire-purchase’ (Ericsson, ZTE) and all these stupid banks did not finance. They should have seen potential as it came through. Even I as an individual, whatever brilliant business plan(s) i could have, its just unthinkable trying to get a good loan. All i have had access to is $21.5K, seriously??

      USSD what? USSD who?? My foot! That USSD they talk about contributes significantly to SDCCH Congestion (signalling channels) and POTRAZ does not care what you do with it and who is using it, all POTRAZ cares about is its a monitored KPI. a KPI that is hard coded into Econet’s licence. If you thought POTRAZ is a toothless bulldog, ask Econet, not Net*One, not Telecel, Econet. Are the banks going to finance the re-dimensioning of the network at large to cater for the extra usage. We all know how Zimbos tend to want to check balances at every turn.

      1. ngth says:

        No one is suggesting they open up USSD for free, Econet can charge well above and beyond what the extra infrastructure would cost them, where it is necessary, already econet are charging a fee per session to check your balance etc on Textacash but USSD also uses insignificant amounts compared to other data services.

        Basically Econet want to block the banks from transacting while demanding the banks let them transact. Play ball and open up your platform if you want them to open up theirs.

      2. FrustratedTechie says:

        Haiwawo I think your comments are totally misguided, Banks were and have been at the mercy of the regulators all the way through hyper-inflation. And you want them to give you other people’s money entrusted to them without you providing adequate collateral? How many local banks have collapsed recently due to inability to recoup issued loans. On top of that they are subjected to “Out of the blue” announcements from the central bank that affect their whole strategies to make money and also give that money to you as loans.

        Secondly, you don’t seem to understand the concept of USSD or how Telecoms work. A mobile provider has separate services that handle services to customers, i.e. voice and sms are a separate service to USSD and handled differently on the network. Its like saying the email on your computer is going to congest the resources on your whole computer while email is but a very small service operating on the pc as a whole.

        Econet have been raking in millions right through the hyper-inflation period through to now and their network has not improved significantly over the better part of the last decade. Recently I cannot make a call to someone on my Econet phone for more than a minute before being disconnected, and keep in mind I’m charged everytime for re-connection every time I redial. Now they want to act like a bank? C’mon lets get real gentlemen!

      3. Tafi says:

        If you cant access to financing – it means that you are not credit worthy otherwise just start your own bank and finance yourself . Econet is the only country in the world which has refused to allow banks to use its platform because Strive always habored hopes of owning a bank . There is no telecoms company in the world which owns a controlling stake in a bank . Do you know corporate governance , how are we going to know how much real money is in Ecocash if the owner of Ecocash is Econet , and the bank which banks Ecocash is owned by Econet . My friend you need to have some common sense before you start uttering rubbish . You are just one stupid Zimbabwean who does not know shit about business

    3. macdchip says:

      Magineto uri shasha. Thanx!!! I hate econet with passion bcoz of high charges bt on this one lm deeply inside there pockets, supporting them.

      Your enemy’s enemy is your friend. These banks have been doing nothing to grow our local economy, actually they are still us and shelving the profits in far away lands

      1. ngth says:

        You are talking about overseas banks (barclays, standard chartered etc), none of which are part of the zimswitch services. Local banks like POSB, CBZ, CABS etc are the ones being affected and I very much doubt POSB etc are hiding money anywhere.

    4. Tapiwa ✔ says:

      Apparently the ‘rebutting’ was going on both ways:

      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

    5. FrustratedTechie says:

      Magneto and madchip mese muri kubvuma kuvharwa makavhura maziso enyu. How sad. Firstly lets look at the facts it was not the banks but government regulation that prevented Econet from prospering probably 90% of what Econet needs comes from outside the country.

      You also forget that during hyper-inflation days it was not the banks who restricted people from getting access to their money, or devalued their money but the reserve bank. Lets look at facts akomana. You talk about undersea cables? Who provided the first undersea cable connection to Zimbabwe?

      Powertel through Botswana, then this was followed by EASSy, the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System which was sponsered by several African countries including your own Zimbabwe government. Seacom was the third privately funded with various parties. So when did Econet fund their own undersea cable to provide affordable internet to the masses of Zimbabwe. They are still one of the most expensive providers of internet in Zimbabwe and they’re probably riding on the undersea cables I’ve mentioned above.

      Econet was one of 3 Internet Access Providers licensed in Zimbabwe. And for your information Internet Access Providers are those companies licensed to sell internet access to Internet Service Providers. Econet had an opportunity to develop the ISP sector but did nothing for it or the customer for that matter. And now they are being bullies again, pocketing your money for poor services and you still support them. What a shame.

    6. Tafi says:

      You dont know anything about banking and anything about telecoms , infact you don’t know anything about business . Econet should not be allowed to own a bank – period .This issue of Econet bribing everyone to get what they want is stupid and it will destroy innovation and employment creation in the long run .

  3. [email protected] says:

    Ya this one’s tricky. I think I’ll bite my tongue on this one, because this side of the story shows a different angle. The truth will all come out soon.

    1. Tapiwa ✔ says:

      I was on the fence before, but my gut agrees with what this Mushayavanhu fella is saying. This is the Zim version of ‘network neutrality’: Econet isn’t just carrying signals regardless of source, but actively blocking certain actors it doesn’t like. Econet is also leveraging its telecoms heft to pick winners (namely:itself) in the banking sector. This is behaviour is illegal in most of the western world, but I guess we’re not in the western world.

      A while back, TechZim was highlighting the fact that a regular Joe can’t deploy VAS services (sic) due to Econet (and other networks) being reluctant gatekeepers – apparently even big banks aren’t any better.

      The bottom line: Econet shouldn’t be blocking (banking) competitors’ access to Econet clients via USSD.

      1. zimictfan says:

        Banks never contributed to the development of the econet network. When Econet was set up no local bank offered them loans to grow their network. Network neutrality needs to come with a business model baba. Kwete kungoita zvekuti munhu wese ngaave connected. When the network is congested or there is need for capex for new equipment do the banks provide funding for increased capacity. Mushayavanhu is not BAZ president so why is he making a lot of noise. There i smell a big fat juicy rat! How large is the customer base of FBC? I think all FBC clients might actually be on EcoCash already because they are Econet subscribers. I wonder if he will refuse to connect the FBC clients who want the EcoCash services now. Wont that be prejudicing your clients refusing to give them access to Bank to Wallet transactions via EcoCash. In this new world the customer not Mushayavanhu is the KING!

        1. Tapiwa ✔ says:

          Do you think banks need to invest/loan Econet money before they can utilise the network to reach their (banks’) clients? What is this: the Mafia? In that line of thinking, what stops Econet from blocking calls originating from these banks? All I’m saying is Econet should charge the banks a fair amount to use USSD, no one is saying they will use the service for free. Outright denial of access is plain wrong.

          In this new world the customer not Mushayavanhu is the KING!

          Not if the only choice is EcoCash. Why is Econet afraid of a little competition, especially, as you say, the banks have a smaller customer base?

          1. zimictfan says:

            Dude do you think FBC with less than 30000 active customers is really barking for its territory here. FBC has been around for more than a decade and failed to serve my sekuru in Muchekayaora! I believe all FBC customers are on EcoCash. EcoCash is connected to TN Bank, CBZ as they said more banks are coming. Whats so special about little FBC here. Yes Econet has not refused to connect RBC. Why cant FBC connect them.

        2. [email protected] says:

          Banks never contributed to the development of the econet network. When
          Econet was set up no local bank offered them loans to grow their
          network.

          So what if the never contributed to “the development” of Econet? How does that relate to this issue? Or are you suggesting Econet should be/is driven by vendettas and vengence. For someone who shows loyalty to Econet, you would be doing them alot of damage suggesting that they are driven by a grudge… which I believe its just your misdirected opinion

          1. zimictfan says:

            I am not saying that. What I am saying is let us accept the fact that Econet saw opportunity and grew while these banks did not see the opportunity to invest in Econet. Due to the forces of business when you invested you guard your investment jealously. Its not a grudge but its the forces of capitalism dude!

            1. FrustratedTechie says:

              Zimictfan you have missed the point altogether, the article specifically states that the banks beat Econet to USSD mobile money transfer services.

              “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.”

              Ecocash was launched after CABS went launched their textacash product! My second point is that Econet has been in business for how long??? And they decided to launch Ecocash now? More so this concept of Ecocash is not an original idea by Econet but copied from Kenya’s famous Mpesa product do the research…

              Econet is being a big bully here, they are not a bank but a mobile operator providing sub-standard service on top of that. How many times have you made a call recently and been disconnected before actually talking to someone, all the time while being charged. Econet was making millions in hyperinflation days what benefits have they given back to customers. Don’t be naive and look at the facts.

      2. Farai Sairai says:

        Tapiwa you are right. Econet is not playing the game fairly here. Econet must stick to telecoms and not go into banking. This is one huge mistake authorities have allowed to play in this sector. Econet will/may now use it’s position to map which way the (mobile) banking sector goes through it’s infrastructure. In my opinion this is a very uncompetitive and may cause many legal problems. And customers are/maybe the losers.

        1. Tapiwa ✔ says:

          My position is that Econet should be able to go into banking if it wants to, but they just have to play fair.

        2. zimictfan says:

          Why cant they go into banking! That will be a bad precedence if we block companies from investing or entering the banking sector. More players more services and products and cheaper products!

      3. [email protected] says:

        My question would be if there is any legal recognition of third party access/marketing over an MNO’s network?

        As it is, there isnt much of an industry for VAS that operates as third parties on cellular networks(unlike,say South Africa). Numbers are so few or non-existent, I doubt even an association exists(good pun “Mushayavanhu”). Given that the networks are GENERALLY closed to third parties.

        If there is a law that governs and there are third parties that are using the networks for their services/promotions then, in my lay legal opinion, there may be a case-ish.

        Otherwise, whilst ethically, what Econet is doing is wrong, there may be no leg to stand on if one decides to take them on legally. Which is why the likes of Mashayavanhu are pushing for regulatory intervention.

        So once again, is there a law that governs third party access to MNO networks?

        Here… have some popcorn Tapiwa ✔ … and pass it on

  4. pqr says:

    big barrier to trade. its easy for econet to get into banking and difficult for the banks to establish thier own networks.

  5. And now the problem is Econet is now also running a bank (TN). I think the competitions and Chakuti chakuti Commisssion should look into this issue, Econet is acting unfairly, both in the comms and banking sector, and we run a risk of serious economic sabpotours from the Ecoshit guys, they have never been for the client, and they will monopolose the two sectors for their own benefit, resulting in …. a lower GDP amongst other things!

    Can somebody please stop Ecoshit for the benefit of the nation?

    1. [email protected] says:

      In the case of TN, Econet are a necessary evil. With their appointment of a former FNB banker and given Econet having some form of innovation, rest assured, we’ll be seeing some innovative banking coming into the sector. That’s if he brings in some of that creativity that FNB puts in its services. The industry needs a shake-up.

      As for this current(Ecocash, BAZ, Textcash) issue, we shall wait and see how it unfolds

      1. So you say “…rest assured, we’ll be seeing some innovative banking coming into the sector…” Why ‘some’ why not econet allow USSD services to all banks so that we see a LOT of innovation from different players and we the consumers benefit?

    2. Tafi says:

      You are the only one who is talking sense and I agree with you . This issue about Econet trying to block any competition to them reminds me of some one we all know who has made us go through 32 years of redundancy .
      Econet are bribing everyone , and I mean everyone to destroy competition . All telecoms companies in the world except Econet have never had any issues with offering USSD services to banks . Econet now owns a bank and that bank is the only bank which handles Ecocash . Where is the corporate governance here , this is stupid and who ever approved this deal to go through we all know how lined up his pockets are , but sadly this deal will destory a lot of innovation and a lot of opportunities for young entrepreneurs , which means less growth for everyone , and huge profits for a few . How sad – and the guy who approved this deal will be only thinking about himself

  6. Culprit says:

    How about some ATM’s for TN Bank really how does econet expect to be taken a relevant player in financial services when they dont have a track record of doing things that a typical provider should have in place. Ecocash is not for everyone and isn’t meant for everyone either, they are not a hero to the people and ecocash does not guarantee financial success or ability, it’s a method of convenience that all, you cant take it to work wear it, eat it either…

  7. Mukoma says:

    Instead of fighting, lets take time to thank His Excellency, the President for championing the democracy that is making all these possible!

  8. ICTCOMMENTATOR says:

    Ok so the banks claim they initiated USSD-based mobile money services before Econet launched EcoCash. So what? I know of obscure 3rd party VAS start-ups that claim to have approached Econet with a proposal that can be construed as the spiritual ancestor of Ecocash. Econet happily looked at their “over-the-top (OTT)” mobile money transfer service proposal, studied the technical blue-print, every last line on the spec sheet, then said “hmmm, thats an amazing proposal for our network, thanks for the last 2 years of your sterling earnest presentations and your tons of literature on this mobile money thing, but sorry, we have decided to go it alone without you, and we will call it Ecocash”. I doubt that anyone here with any grasp of business strategy would want to outsource something that they can do a lot cheaper for themselves. We would all do what Econet did, we dont get into business for love, its about the bottom line let no-one tell you otherwise. There is nothing to stop local banks putting heads together and coming up with an OTT proposal that bypasses the Econet RAN (radio access network) as a delivery platform, and uses instead an internet/cloud type platform, much like whatsapp/skype. Why cant banks invest in a data centre much like what most internet/cloud type service offferings have done. What is it about Zimbos always wanting to piggy-back on what others have built, are we incapable of pioneering something for ourselves? Are we largely a nation of parasites? They (banks) could come up with a hybrid social/mobile money platform not dependent on mobile operators RANs that is hip and cutting-edge, with free info on financial and economic indicators, and then charge for mobile money transactions, perhaps with discounts for referrals to grow the business. Not all handsets can Whatsapp, but almost all handsets are internet capable now, and thats a massive opportunity. Mobile network operators are scratching their heads right now about what to do with OTT apps that are eating up to 33% of their usual voice and sms revenues. The day that OTT apps like Skype and Facetime and Viber and Whatsapp interconnect such that I can call a Viber subscriber from my Skype account, is the day that the need for a mobile number becomes redundant for the average person, and Econet knows this, so they do have to start thinking about future revenue sources. Mobile money can be done without banks, so Econet is doing nothing wrong here.

    1. biNu Zimbabwe says:

      Great idea of being independent of the MNOs. We have been pushing this concept for some time now, where the network has evolved to just a conduit of the traffic and should not be the be and end all.

      We might knock on some doors and have these banks look into developing a solution using our App (biNu) that currently has over 200k registrants in Zimbabwe and counting. These being feature phones and above…

  9. Shingi says:

    9 months down the line and Econet still has not opened its ussd gateway to all the banking institutions. If I bank with Stanchard and use econet line, why cant I have cellphone banking access to my stanchard account. Telecel came to the party years ago that’s why stanchard cellphone banking runs on telecel lines. Econet block their ussd gateway until they have their own bank so that they can “force” everyone to have bank account at stewardbank. Its so sickening.

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