Given our country’s limitations in payment systems, especially web based ones, I have encountered a number of entrepreneurs that have talked about developing solutions that enable users to pay for goods and services using their mobile phone airtime.
Needless to say, none has been implemented widely in the country to date. No clever innovative solution besides the mobile operators’ mobile banking solutions imported from other economies.
The problem is basically that the majority of the people in Zimbabwe (and other ‘developing’ nations) have no credit cards. In fact, the clearer statement would be that the majority don’t even have bank accounts. It’s for reasons that have been covered widely in mobile banking discussions so we’ll not go into that. It’s starting to change ofcourse with the recent introduction of mobile banking on some mobile networks but it will take several months or even a few years for the landscape to be different.
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It was therefore quite notable to read about the successes of one global company, txteagle, implementing an ‘airtime compensation platform’ on over 220 mobile networks globally. The company uses their platform to gather market intelligence through surveys with a subscriber base of 2.1 billion mobile users in developing countries. In return for participation, the company pays subscribers using airtime.
Effectively, txteagle says they use airtime to pay in 50 currencies instantly and directly to any of the 2.1 billion mobile phone subscribers in 100 countries.