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#Connectivity

EcoCash… what’s next?

   

ecocash-logo 1Following closely developments in mobile services provision, I predicted EcoCash’s savings account before it was launched. I even proposed a Mobile phone directory for my wish list which Econet launched recently. I did not see Ecofarmer coming, nor EcoSchool although EcoCashCredit was kind of obvious after the savings account. All this leaves us with the question, “What will they come up with next?”

EcoVisa – International Money Transfer

EcoCash has indicated it is working on transfers across borders. We are still to hear the noise about it and how it will resolve various challenges posed by the absence of a regional common money system. Such an instrument would complement the retail payments for COMESA grouping for example, or the SADC region. EcoCash could come up with an international eco-environment where it won’t matter which country you are in as long as there is Econet Wireless or its roaming partners. Imagine the reality of a cash-in in United States Dollars at Road Port, boarding a coach and switching to roaming, then cashing out at Johannesburg Park Station, in Rands. Imagine the possibility of buying from Game store directly via EcoCash while you are in Zimbabwe.

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The possibilities have been explored to some extend by the likes of Afrocoin which has partnered with banks in Zimbabwe and South Africa to allow international remittances to come directly to the mobile phone of the recipient, or at least for the recipient to receive a notification. While this idea is welcome, what in my opinion would work better is the expansion of the home-grown solution that most Zimbabweans have already grown to trust. EcoCash would score a quick moving into this space. Starting off perhaps where Econet is already found (Africa, Europe, South America and East Asia), then partnering with roaming partners.

EcoWages – Improved direct salary payments

Indeed EcoCash has had the headache of how to fund their wallets. Not unjustifiably so, given that the major source of individual money movements in Zimbabwe are the low percentile population of salaried citizens. This class is the same banked population that is responsible for most of the wallet transfers, that is, from urban to rural, bill payments etcetera. The BEAR project intended to functionalise a method of syphoning some of the funds in the banking sector while retaining the right of first refusal to give any back. You can do bank to EcoCash transfers but may not do EcoCash to Bank.

Probably why it is failing to fully implement because of this adverse effects on liquidity on the banking sector. EcoCash then linked up with Paynet in a bid to divert salaries out of the banks directly. The banks resisted and the only way right now is for the salary first going into the banks then from the bank into EcoCash. Sooner or later, EcoCash is going to have to come up with a strategy to get the salaries directly into wallets.

This they would do by approaching large firms such as COTCO, Delta Corp, ZimPlats and uniformed forces especially with centrally managed payrolls such as the SSB and ZAPAR, ZESA. They would try out a pilot phase on the employees while of course offering luring incentives on the corporate itself. Employees would receive salaries in their e-wallets and Steward Bank would receive the Payroll bill equivalent in settlement from whichever bank the corporate resides.

EcoFirm (EcoCash Corporate) 

All it takes for a payment to move out of a corporate account is the signing arrangement. Now if EcoCash comes up with an e-wallet based application on the phone or tablet (more corporate) that allows one party to initiate a transaction and prompts the next authorising party through the mobile phone to authorise the transaction, then we should have corporate e-wallets. After all, we are in the dawn of the tablet going into 2014. Applicants would indicate all the regular controls required via the bank, but at the point of transacting it’s simply about getting the necessary authorisations, and just like that you have paid your ZESA and Water from your phone or tablet at 2100 hours.

EcoCash MicroFinance (EcoCash Credit)

Another area that has not been over – explored is the micro finance sector and how they could benefit from mobile wallets generally and EcoCash in particular. People will always borrow, especially now in these myriad economic woes. They will agree to most terms and interest rates of up to 48%. They would not mind receiving their loan disbursements via e-wallet for the security and convenience. Most will agree to receive their salaries through EcoCash even.

If their bank does not have EcoCash, the switching cost between one bank account and another is very small. Opening the account itself has become even simpler in this day of branchless banking via a POS. Repayments on these loans can be done via direct debits to the e-wallet account as soon as it is funded. Re-payments can also be done via most POS without necessarily having to go via e-wallet. When the worst comes to the worst repayments may even be done by recharge scratch card. The concept itself sounds fa-fetched but the likes of CSI have implemented such systems for some of the big banks in Africa.

EcoVAS (Value Added Services)

One of the challenges in getting people to adopt the EcoCash bill payment system lies in the fact that all transactions must be initiated by the user. One way in which EcoCash could kill this bug is by allowing various developments to evolve around the wallet. They would need to open up their delivery channel to other players. As the EcoCash product is embraced more and more by Zimbabweans, there are so many other uses for the technology than what EcoCash themselves can continue to innovate, nor should they cartelise the channel. I could think of a dozen ideas for services that would prompt the wallet to proceed with a payment.

People need to start buying and downloading music online via EcoCash, they need to receive digital change vouchers, they need to play online Monopoly, they need to pay their tithes and offering in church, they need to pay tobacco farmers during harvest, they need to place their soccer bet, they need to implement bill presentation systems that prompt the e-wallet account holder to pay, they need to play live TV game shows; – all of these without necessarily dialling “*151*200# and pay Merchant Z”. In future editions we will try to understand the EcoCash standpoint as far as allowing private players onto their platform for VAS that ultimately add on to the traffic the EcoCash gets.


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