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Safaricom partners locals for M-Ledger: Can’t we have the same collaboration in Zim?

StartupsITWebAfrica reported that yesterday Safaricom launched a new Android application called M-Ledger for their mobile money service, M-Pesa.

M-Ledger is an easily accessible mobile money accounting service which lets users to monitor and manage past transactions on a single view from mobile phone. It also gives options to gather data in spreadsheet form.

It  was developed through a collaboration between Safaricom and a Kenyan startup called Dynamic Data Systems. It was was one of the 18 apps that came out of the first edition of the  Safaricom Appwiz Competition. This is a challenge aimed at promoting mobile tech startups like Dynamic Data Systems.

It’s been reported that Safaricom has stated that this is the first in a series of partnerships with Kenyan developers and startups.

Safaricom and Dynamic Data Systems deserve high praise for an app that will come in and provide this sort of financial literacy. With mobile money as the gateway to African financial service access, it won’t be surprising to see this service pop up in Zimbabwe sometime soon.

However, players like Safaricom should be commended more for an approach that leans towards developing their local tech ecosystem and build capacity.

It’s hardly surprising that with the amount and diversity of work that mobile networks are involved in they can’t do it all on their own . This is something that calls for collaboration with outfits that can fill that gap.

In a 2013 Deloitte report on African Telecoms, Bob Collymore the CEO of Safaricom Kenya said,

No one has the ability to do everything themselves and neither do we have the ability to do everything ourselves. So what you have to do is you have to partner. We are not going to have the ability to do everything which is why we do partner with people.

It’s all about partnership. In a case like Safaricom and M-Ledger it’s really refreshing when a network reaches out to its own space to do so, something that we haven’t seen happening on the local front.

The countless services that our three networks are delivering are the results of collaboration with third parties that just happen to be foreign entities.

It goes without saying that these networks have every right to pick who they want to work with.  If an external vendor (which is or was once a startup in its own right) can deliver the best service then it should be taken. It’s a business decision. We all expect the best service from the networks at the end of the day.

Sadly this doesn’t build on the potential that the local startup ecosystem might have to fill that gap. Perhaps our startups aren’t ready to play major league, but they won’t get there if there is no opportunity to do so anyway.

At the risk of sounding like someone out to beat the worn drum of indigenisation wouldn’t the selection of a local outfit be a winning case for the country?

Even when delivering simple services that could have been developed by third party vendors and startups we still see the networks turn the other way and roll out these solutions on their own. How about giving this work to the serious local teams that can deliver?

I think we need more clear demonstrations of the opportunity that exists for local startups to work with networks. Having our own M-Ledger type story might just inspire our ecosystem.

Do you think that local developers are ready to deliver solutions for local networks? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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