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ZimSwitch services update: Internet payments, Mobile Money, mCommerce & more

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ZimSwitch Ready

ZimSwitch ReadyWe have received a much needed update from ZimSwitch on stuff they have been working on these past several months. The last time we covered ZimSwitch in some depth is when they announced the signing on of 12 financial institutions to their ZimSwitch Shared Services (ZSS). They also announced then that the company was working to launch an internet payment gateway to allow Zimbabweans to transact online by end of 2011.

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The latest update explains further the ZimSwitch Shared Services platform; basically, a single point of connection for the financial institutions allowing them to offer financial services via mobile, web and to integrate seamlessly with service providers such as the utilities companies (ZESA for example), companies providing subscription based services like DSTV and merchants in general.

The update also goes into the different services that the platform will provide to financial institutions, local business and users of financial services.

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An important development to note, one that we noticed when FBC launched Mobile Moola back in June, is that ZimSwitch Shared Services are now mobile network agnostic, meaning users can transact from any mobile network. Remember when ZimSwitch first launched mobile banking services last year, bank customers had to migrate to buy a Telecel line to access the services. We’re not sure what this means for Telecel’s Skwama as it looks more and more out of the picture, so we’ll follow up on that.

Meanwhile, we are particularly excited about a new service called vPayments, which, you guessed it, is the Internet payment gateway ZimSwitch has been promising to launch for some time now. Just as confirmed last year vPayments is modeled on PayPal. The platform’s development is complete according to the update, and is expected to be made available by the end of September.

A mobile payments gateway has also been completed allowing merchants in Zimbabwe to accept payment via mobile phones. Think of it as something along Econet’s EcoCash Business but allowing you to make mobile payments from any network. This service, ZimSwitch says, will be available by the end of the year.

Here are the service updates we extracted from the information we received. Some of it is not new information, but let’s just have it all here together for easy reference:

  • In addition to the 19 banks currently connected to ZimSwitch for POS and ATM inter-bank transactions, the following ZimSwitch members are now using the new ZSS interfaces: POSB, CABS, CBZ, Standard Chartered, FBC Bank and Building Society, Trust Bank, Bar-clays, ZB, Agribank, Metropolitan, Tetrad, MBCA and Interfin (currently off-line). Integration plans are in advanced stages with the remaining members.
  • ZimSwitch Mobile is a shared mobile banking platform and USSD Gateway connecting our member financial institutions to all three MNO’s in Zimbabwe, namely Telecel, NetOne and Econet. The platform offers full USSD connectivity for banking related services as well as SMS and Direct Airtime functionality. The infra-structure has already performed over three million transactions since launch in 2011.
  • ZIPIT – Stands for ZimSwitch Instant Payment Interchange Technology. Once ZIPITs have been enabled on a bank’s infrastructure, their customers can send funds instantly to any other ZIPIT Ready financial institution or ANY registered cell phone in Zimbabwe (Telecel, NetOne or Econet). Funds can be sent from any delivery channel – Mobile, POS, ATM or Internet. The ZimSwitch fee for processing a ZIPIT is currently set at twenty cents.
  • ZIPIT to Bank – is a “High Volume, Low Value” transaction-set enabling the instant reflection of funds transferred from an account at one bank to an account at a different bank. The current transactional limit for a ZIPIT to Bank is $1,000 per transfer. ZimSwitch expects to have all ZimSwitch member financial institutions integrated onto the new platform in Q4 2012.
  • ZIPIT to Mobile – Using this service funds can be transferred to any cellphone in Zimbabwe (banked or unbanked) and redeemed at any ZIPIT – Ready POS or ATM device. A new “agent-infrastructure” is emerging across Zimbabwe where cell phone owners who have been sent a ZIPIT transfer can redeem their cash.
  • vPayments – Acquiring financial institutions will continue to hold merchant relationships as they currently do with the existing POS devices, but without the costs associated with a physical infrastructure.

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39 thoughts on “ZimSwitch services update: Internet payments, Mobile Money, mCommerce & more

  1. Correction, you said

    …launch an internet payment gateway to allow Zimbabweans to transact online by end of 2011….

    I assume u meand 2012
    _______________

    Its about time. Given that it is an extremely difficult service to break in due to trust, regulation and capacity issues, ZimSwitch was just about the only one that could do it

    1. A question though,concerning vPayments… what is the scope of their transactions?

      1) Local only?
      2) Local and international inbound?
      3) Local, international inbound and international outbound?

      Am sure more info will come. Am particularly interested in requirements for being a merchant & the developer API.

      Whatever the case, this is exciting. The next, biggest step is cultivating a culture of online spending. I am sure this would also be influenced by banking habits & trust.

    2. Thanks for looking out 🙂
      Actually meant 2011. The information when we first learnt about the development back in 2011, was that the Internet payment gateway would be released by end of 2011. Didn’t happen of course.

      1. I misread the phrase too, I thought it was part of the current announcement. Prefixing with “At the time, they also announced…” would have been less confusing. </nitpick>

  2. This is good news from zimswitch. The next step is to hold the public by the hand into acquiring an online spending culture.

  3. this m&e commerce is about to get exciting. Good vision ZimSwitch. Look out for a brand new transaction system from us in the coming year as well. A totally experimental and radical approach. Hopefully the more players, the better the innovation and overall gain for the consumer.

  4. I am very excited but I know this is going to be FAIL. Not because it is a bad service(sounds good actually), but because I know they are going to go about it the wrong way. Yes the banks, the subscription based services, the utilities will be playing a vital role in the development of this great service but they are not the key to success.Let me enlighten you my dear brothers.

    The three pillars of a successful ecosystem are
    1.The platform
    2.The consumers
    3.The developers

    The consumers have always been there, the platform is now here but the developers are and will be neglected. The developers have always been the missing link and this ecosystem will be a fail. I will take Apple as an example(disclaimer: I am not an Apple fanboy), what is it that make the iPhone and iPad such successful products? It definitely is not just the platform(iOS) since I think Android is equally as good, nor is it the consumers(an open market) but it is all about the apps. Apps make iOS devices great, apps make the iPhone the product a cut above the rest and apps is what people buy iPads for. Apps are what make Apple products perpertual cash cows which rack up that revenue months after the product is sold. And it is not the blue chip companies that make the apps,its not the apps made by the banks, the subscription based services, the utilities that consumers follow. It is the apps that developers make that make Apple great.

    I hope you get where i’m coming from by now. Third party developers are the cornerstone of all successful tech ecosystems and as a developer I’m quite skeptical. There was no mention of APIs or developers so I can be safe to assume they are not in ZimSwitch’s plans(immediate plans anyways). I hope i’m wrong. You have no idea how long great developers(they are many, yes) in Zimbabwe have been waiting for a way to monetise their great ideas(there are many of those too). Developers are more important than you think and have maybe the greatest role to play between the three pillars but again they will be neglected and ZimSwitch will be blamed for making a substandard which is actually not substandard and people will lose faith in the service and it will just become another way to pay your ZESA bill(sad isn’t it)

    Maybe I am wrong, maybe I have been disappointed one too many times, maybe I have lost faith in the Zimbabwean technology industry I love so much, but I am hopeful. These are exciting times.

    Sorry for the long comment

    1. There was no mention of APIs or developers so I can be safe to assume they are not in ZimSwitch’s plans(immediate plans anyways). I hope i’m wrong.

      Ofcourse there was no mention! If you read, you will know that they said:

      The platform’s development is complete according to the update, and is expected to be made available by the end of September.

      Unless you time-travelled to their launch in September, how on earth do you reach such a conclusion before they even announced how these services will be deployed?

      Unless you have inside info, your conclusions are totally baseless. In as far as a developer API,the only thing we can glean from it is that “vPayments is modeled on PayPal”. Given that it is all that we have to work with…if what they claim is what they will deliver, then your negative sentiment is totally misplaced.

      How do you even pass judgement on something that they have not even told you… unless you possess some mind-reading,future-seeing power or know inside info?

      1. @tinmann:disqus are you a developer? developer APIs are best handed out before product launch so that developers get to know what they are dealing with before the product goes public. I could be wrong to assume(we will see) but those are just my thoughts. But going as far as saying, “unless you possess some mind-reading,future-seeing power or know inside info? ” sounds like you are looking for a dog fight. Unless its constructive criticism you are going to post, I’m sorry this will be the only response you get from me

        1. Point is, your assumption is baseless.

          Am I a developer? How would you validate my response? You got jokes, buddy!

        2. There’s no handbook or rule on how to provision/launch APIs. Testing can be done through emulation or sandboxing or whatever pre-production environment they choose to provide. If it is in anyway like PayPal, then we expect a sandbox. There would be no need to give some sort of beta access, pre-launch.

          1. That’s more like it, but don’t you think pre-production APIs would have been better? I understand this is new product but what’s your take

            1. As long as it is developer-friendly. Nothing as bad as a poorly implemented & poorly documented API. If they delay with the information, promising an elegant API, I dont really feel rushed to get the API info. What I do expect is many challenges in the beginning as it would be the first time for them

          2. While there is no ‘handbook’ for launching an API, the industry-standard practice is to do a beta/limited testing during development (developer seeding). That is why every global platform for the past decade or so always had launch partners/products/samples (think PS3, XBox, iOS, Google+, anything that can be defined as a platform, really). You really, really want your platform to be usable from day 1.

            If it is in anyway like PayPal, then we expect a sandbox.

            Agreed, and sooner is better. PayPal’s API is already battle-tested, the point of the sandbox is to test your code, not theirs, before you deploy. ZimSwitch’s API is new, and likely brittle. So ZimSwitch has more things to worry about than PayPal; including their own code. What better way to test their API than against real-world API calls?

            There are no reports of neither a beta (or even alpha) sandbox, nor partners helping them to work out potential issues with their API. What comes first, platform launch or products-on-platform?

            Besides, what’s the point of launching a platform – likely with great media fanfare, with no actual products on it?

            1. Am fully aware of beta-testing practice. I think we are mixing two types of testing here.

              The testing I was referring to is not the product test for soliciting feedback on improvements/bugs. I meant developer testing, pre-production. When you are developing using their API before launching YOUR product. Sandboxing being the common method, esp for payment gateways. They also serve the purpose of the developer familiarising him/herself with the API. Which I think was how we arrived at the topic

              Fortunately, they have responded and clarified that they have a “closed loop pilot” with select retailers. It wouldve been very risky to launch to the public(developers) before doing something like that

        3. That’s more like it, but don’t you think pre-production APIs would have been better? I understand this is new product but what’s your take

    2. haha. eTranzact Zimbabwe has APIs but they are a closely guarded secret like the Coca-Cola formula. Secondly, unless i read wrong, banks will issue merchant account and from my research, you only get a merchant account under extraordinary condition from any bank. Basically, you are a suspect of something suspicious, not until proved innocent, but always.

      Your banks love utilities like ZESA etc. we shall see. The thing may work just like Paypal but really open to a handful. I only advise the Zimswitch guys not to do a “eTranzact”, which became a failure.

  5. Thanks for responding. When you say Q4…is it Q4 2012 or 2013?

    Otherwise, looking forward to seeing what you have on offer.

    All the best!

  6. Cant wait to see how it will work. remember to market the service, otherwise you will become another “eTranzact”.

  7. As far as I am concerned, if Zimswitch makes available plugins/extensions for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal they would have done themselves a favour. The service will be adopted rapidly, seeing that many prominent Zimbabwean websites are especially Joomla-powered.

    1. Thats where the developers come in. ZimSwitch would have done its job. It would now be up to us to create all sorts of interfaces to all sorts of apps

      1. With what i have seen with joomla sites in Zimbabwe, i think if Zimswitch makes available the plugins/extensions for the major CMS they wopuld have done themselves a favour as more people would build services easily around the Zimswitch services.

        In South Africa, PayU has been widely adopted becaus the plugins are readily available. PayU itself created custom plugins for the CMSs. this saves a lot of time for both developer and Zimswitch. At least if the plugin is from Zimswitch, you can bet it will always be updated.

        I know many people who can install CMS but very few have the coding skills. So if they make a plugin/extension available, many websites would integrate zimswitch, making it more relevant.

    2. Totally agree! Why has this not happened? I’m building a WordPress site that would benefit from this feature.

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