Local mobile operator Econet has had a keen interest in Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for a while.
At the Beyond the Phone Expo held in October this year, it unveiled its NFC-enabled debit card called the EcoCash Express Debit Card. This MasterCard product allows users to pay for goods by tapping the card against a compliant Point of Sale (POS) device.
Now, Econet has introduced a follow-up to that product, and its called EcoCash Ta! The name ta! is actually an onomatopoeic play on the tapping action made when someone uses the service.
How do I use it?
Ecocash ta! works pretty much in the same way as the EcoCash Express Debit Card with the only difference being that it uses an NFC-enabled sticker that you can place at the back of your phone (actually it can be stuck anywhere for that matter – assuming you handle any other device a lot more extensively).
The stickers have been priced at $1 and are available from Econet shops and EcoCash Agents.
Your Ecocash Mobile money wallet is synced with the sticker. When you want to make a payment you tap the sticker device against the merchant or vendor’s enabled micro Point of Sale (POS) device and the relevant amount is deducted from your EcoCash wallet. No EcoCash PIN is required for payments of $3 or less. The EcoCash ta! has a daily transaction limit of $1,000.
One for the vendors
Interestingly, the EcoCash ta! has been introduced as a point of sale option for vendors and merchants first. The new payment system uses micro POS devices which have been earmarked not just for retailers (as was/is the case with its debit card options) but for vendors and merchants.
According to Econet’s announcement, more than 500 vendors, merchants and agents have already signed up to use the service to accept payments.
It would seem Econet is moulding its payment services evolution around local market dynamics. In urban areas, where mobile money has experienced a fervent growth because of high volumes of both formal and informal trade, the rise of vendor based retailing has changed the landscape of cash movements.
Rather than ignore this reality, products like EcoCash ta! are actually being promoted for the small scale trader, merchant and vendor. Collectively, this segment is handling a large haul of the limited cash in Zimbabwe. Products like EcoCash ta! just ensure that those funds or a large part of them are tucked in the Eco -system.
At the same time, this looks like a side step from card payments. Sure, the integration with mobile money was a fantastic idea, but in some ways, cards represent a movement in the other direction for a market that embraced e-payments through the phone.
Rather than force the card down the informal market’s proverbial pocket, it’s probably smarter to offer a product with a middle ground of sorts. There are all the conveniences of mobile money offered for the user and at the same time there isn’t a card extension, just a sticker and a ta! which means transactions and cash retention for EcoCash.