Man in the mirror: What Econet can learn from being excluded by ZESA

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

shocked-man-in-mirrorEconet is unhappy about being excluded by ZESA from selling prepaid electricity tokens via the EcoCash mobile money platform. It doesn’t make sense to them how the government won’t let them provide convenience the market needs.

The issue has come up in more than half of the conversations I’ve had with Econet executives these past 3 or so months. It’s unfair, they say. The government, ZESA, must realise how they stand to get more revenue by letting more people pay easily. And while ZESA, Econet, and the government (through VAT on transactions & Income tax) all make more money, the customer would benefit a lot too.

We actually agree with Econet on this. In fact we’ve been one of the most vocal advocates of reason and fairness on the issue. It is a big problem when a company that has monopolistic control over a resource decides to play exclusion games.

The problem is that Econet itself plays these exclusion game very well too. They’re considered masters at it. The company has generally had the attitude that they don’t owe anyone any explanation. So much to the extent that, even as a publicly listed company, they now bar journalists from attending the announcement of their results. And if, at Econet PR events designed to promote new products, the journalists attempt to ask about these exclusion games they are told to stick to the subject of the day.

Econet has played the exclusion games with third party service providers looking to reach Econet customers via SMS or USSD. Just last year Econet silently switched off all bulk SMS except that going through one aggregator they had selected. If you were using bulk SMS to communicate with clients, your SMS just suddenly wasn’t going through anymore. And they owed no one an explanation. I say that because if Econet just laid bare what the process is and how service providers can access the network then it would be better. Anyone that has tried to do VAS will also tell the same story of exclusion and lack of clarity of the process.

You could say Econet is not strictly a monopoly, and you would be right. But surely, if anyone is excluded from more than 60% of the mobile subscribers in a country, it’s as bad as a monopoly. With that size of market share, their policy stance by default becomes that of the industry. Even though its not Econet’s fault or their responsibility to create an organised VAS ecosystem, they can do a lot more to improve it. Their inaction promotes the situation we’re in now where Econet itself is free to send football SMS spam while seemingly blocking legit VAS from happening.

The same way they want ZESA to open up the electronic tokens so any company is free to integrate (and the market gets to choose which service they prefer), is the same way Econet should liberate VAS so any third party is free to get in and the market chooses which ideas are great and which ones ultimately succeed. Right now Econet just has a terrible reputation of blocking and stealing VAS ideas. The reputation may very well not be based on facts, but their ‘we don’t owe the market any information’ stance breeds the theories.

Econet has also played the exclusion games with the banks. First, the banks were told outright that they could only offer mobile money through EcoCash and not via the network directly through a ‘neutral’ switch. An essentially unfair offer as it doesn’t make sense for the bank to have a mobile wallet that depends on the competition’s mobile wallet.

With increased pressure, Econet capitulated but offered another poisoned deal; the banks were free to integrate at network level but they had to pay more money for any USSD traffic that competes directly with EcoCash. It’s like ZESA saying to Econet, ‘here, you can sell electricity tokens via EcoCash, but you pay 6 times more than NetOne does.’

The public’s opinion of situation between Econet and the banks has favoured Econet. Mostly because banks themselves have nasty and real financial exclusion issues. But if we’re ok with Econet excluding the banks, maybe its ok for Econet to exclude third party VAS providers too? And maybe its ok for Econet itself to be excluded? The point is that exclusion is unfair and it hurts everyone; the competition (ok), the customers (bad) and even the company that’s doing the exclusion (bad too). Look no further than what TelOne \has had to go through over the decades because of being afforded the power to exclude. Hell, look at ZESA itself.

The game of exclusion being played on them is an opportunity for Econet to look in the mirror and acknowledge what they have become.


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  1. Buffdaddy

    Great well articulated comment

    1. tinm@n

      That it is.

      Good of Techzim to consider that other side of the coin, as most people had commented the same in their article ( )

  2. Anonymous

    Utsinye hune Econet, so sickening.
    Cease fire please.

  3. angiecentra

    Haha..this is soo funny…we were all thinking it…. thanks for saying it…..

  4. Anonymous

    serves them right. chinokanganwa idemo kwete muti. well done zesa its high time someone showed this econet guys that they are not ones who can play the monopoly game, others can do it too

  5. kb

    Are we talking bout Econet or ZESA. Its good that u brought this up. At least Econet gives reasons why it excludes other parties. ZESA didn’t. They want us to walk to an outlet to by their tockens. 2 weeks ago I spent 2 hrs looking moving around OK supermarkets to get an electricity tocken. ZESA doesn’t even know there is what we call Quality of Service. They do this coz they don’t have a competitor. Econet on the other hand monopolizes the market coz they provide good service better than Telecel, Netone and Telone. Telecel has improved these days but lack some professionalism and are slow to bring technology.

    1. Anonymous

      You miss the point nhai. The ‘at least econet is better coz they explain’, argument finds a itself lost here.

      They deserve to get a taste of their own poison. Who cares whether the prescriber is a saint or not?

      Beautiful well written well researched article. Keep it up Kabweza. I pray econet won’t victimize you the same way they victimize all of us poor Zimbabweans.

    2. Mhuka Huru

      Crazy argument, what has Econet explained and to who? Do I know why I’m receiving all those World Cup SMSs? You spend 2 hours moving around coz Njere shoma dzinokuvadza muviri nebasa . . . One wallet would serve you those two hours, and the line costs ~$1 only

  6. Anonymous

    I know I don’t speak for myself when I say, at some point in their lives, all Zimbabweans have prayed for foreign competition to come and save is from greedy Econet

    Takamboti MTN, Tikati Vodafone zvimwe pada ichauya, every time such rumors hit the streets, everyone jumps with excitement.

    Ukawonawo uchiita nharo kuti econet ibully, you hvnt done enough research. Kungorotomokawo hako lol

    1. dhara

      The question we should all be asking then is : What made Econet become a “bully”? Are the current regulations favouring Econet and not the other mobile operators? Consumers should be complaining instead kuti why isn’t Netone or Telecel keeping up with Econet. Let’s face the hard facts…..we cannot allow our technology to develop only as fast as the slowest player.

  7. Anonymous

    I can imagine what the folks at Econet are thinking????

    1. Farai

      I do not think they care what you think as long as they get their way in doing things.

  8. Muju01

    I think econet are a greedy company.
    Simple things like how they’ve changed their Daily bundle validity periods show how much they just want to milk their subscribers dry.

    1. Anonymous

      i no longer buy bundles. shuwa kungomuka vangochinja zvese without even telling us.

    2. Mhuka Huru

      The day they changed the validity period is the Day I moved over!

  9. Anonymous

    Well done Buddy. But looking at the big picture for me it is the Zimbabwean disease of treating each other in this most horrible way.Actually Zimbabweans have earned a reputation for treating each other horribly—ask any non-Zimbo

  10. Anonymous

    great article, its high time econet does some introspection

  11. collen

    econet have not monopolized anything, its us who follow beta service than telecel and netone. i am also tired of physical spam from netone when ever i go to pay my zesa they ask me register with us to buy your zesa at home 1st buy our line blaaa blaaa.

    the queues are still long ku zesa 🙁

  12. Anonymous

    It makes business sense for Zesa to go with Netone, not sure about Telecel

  13. ef

    NOW they are switching off subscribers sim cards for u to visit them and u a required to pay a dollar for a new sim and no receipt is issued. If they do this to all their subscribers who a millions they are assured of over a milllion dollars in revenue

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      You’re sure they are doing that. I don’t think they’d even consider such a thing

  14. Khal Drogo

    Mr. Kabweza as the Editor of Techzim, we’re always churning out, reading and, let’s be honest this is some of the best articles of the year, the ones I think should be bookmark into the browser. Econet deserve to be blocked, they have too much monopolistic tendencies!

    1. shiz

      Econet might deserve to be blocked as you say, but the main problem is that it’s the general populace which will and is suffering. i cannot help help but imagine how much convenience it would bring to everyone out there had ZESA opened up to Ecocash.

    2. L.S.M Kabweza

      thanks. I however don’t believe that Econet deserves to be blocked. Such exclusion, whoever is doing it (Econet or ZESA, or the government) is not helpful

  15. Gary Gerald

    Dindingwe rinofara richakweva rimwe kana iro rokwevewa roti mavara angu ozara ivhu!

  16. tmc

    I think this article is a bit misplaced, and does not do justice to us Zesa customers. Zesa introduced a prepaid system and they have just a few sale points and the queues are really bad.

    In business one casts their net where the fish are plenty and
    Lets be real between Telecel and Econet lie the greatest number of clients roughly 10 million. For Zesa to exclude and disregard such a large pool of clients for one reason or another boggles the mind. Worse still this technical platform seemingly condons this decision by Zesa certainly shows what is wrong with our nation. Have we no care for the multitudes that board buses to go and wait in long queues.

    If I am unhappy with my mobile subscriber I have 3 other options. If my bank gives me a raw deal I have a number of other options, but what options have I with Zesa?

    This platform must help us customers to put pressure on Zesa to allow us to purchase prepaid coupons in Supermarkets, banks, garages and on our mobile platforms.

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      I suspect you didn’t get the point of the article. This platform has written a number of times about why what ZESA is doing is wrong, and we’ll continue to do that.
      However in pointing out ZESA’s wrongs we’d like to acknowledge that this is not a ZESA problem alone. The company that’s complaining the loudest, Econe, practices such things too. The ZESA episode is a lesson for everyone that exclusion is wrong. it hurts everyone, not least of all, us the customers.

      1. Farai

        At the end of the day, Econet may not really care or push for inclusion. Pressure form customers may sway the direction of how ZESA is going to do this. It is not like Econet is desperate for having this service. Only a matter of time and Econet will be selling electricity.

    2. Mhuka Huru

      I think YOU are a bit misplaced, Why should ZESA worry about Econet and bring them on board when Ecoshit doesnt do that to other players in multiple sectors they have encroached? And if you visit this platform once a year and read only article, dont make com=nclusions the patform condones such behaviour . . . Basically, you arenot informed!

  17. Anonymous

    What is the position with Telecel Mr Kabweza? Were they given access to ZESA tokens or not? On another note ….One thing people have to understand is that these fights are not new to Zimbabwean companies only , they happen all over the world. This is the reason why when you buy an HP Laptop you generally have more access to Microsoft products than MAC for example

  18. Mhuka Huru

    I wish Econshit’s license would just be cancelled, they are Tooooooo greedy, why did they reduce the validity period of our bundles? #IMovedOver

    1. Rational

      My friend, even if Econet is closed down today. Netone and Telecel will still behave the same way, if not worse, Econet has been behaving. Just imagine if Netone was as big as Econet, they would not even consider offering those dollar per day promos. If consumers are to one, competition should be encouraged between the MNOs

  19. kelvin Ben

    Great piece of writting. I have always told people that Econet has a lot to explain but they decide not to because of the monopoly they have created. Last year they cut off Telecel without any notice. A move that despite being thought to be of a policy it was a move to get people on Telecel lines to buy Econet lines. Many at times they come up with this game and I am glad it has been slapped right at their face…….

    1. Anonymous

      i agree with you ben. more people should do what they econet do to others maybe they will stop being bullies

  20. Anonymous

    Zimbabwe is such a small economy for us to do things one by himself , we need to work together. Zimswitch is one such project where banks came together to provide technology to the people and everybody immensely benefited. We are waiting for the phone network operators to do something like this. Right now operators trenched and laid fiber individually but we are not seeing the benefits, coz internet is still expensive. Look at Tesla, its the biggest company selling electric cars and the good thing they are doing is they share their patented technology so that the industry also benefits. Econet should be seen on the forefront working together with others instead of excluding others and doing things on their own.

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