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Here’s a case for mobile money services through football clubs

There’s no denying it, an impressive level of financial inclusion in Zimbabwe has been achieved over the years thanks to the mobile phone. All this was activated by consolidating mobile phone penetration and translating it into financial services inclusion.

There’s a difference between the two, financial inclusion and financial services inclusion. Financial Inclusion mainly speaks about enabling users to access financial services, while the latter talks about activating those users with access to participate more prominently in those services.

Over the past two years we’ve witnessed how beyond just the ability to send and receive money, mobile money operators have the opportunity to offer extended services such as insurance, savings, investments, leisure and gaming, transportation and so on.

Which brings us to the opportunities that lie in blending mobile money services reach and our favourite national past time; football.

Mobile money operators through football clubs, can, for example, use mobile or card-based wallets as membership cards. Banking on the loyalty of fans to their clubs, branded membership cards are issued at a negligible cost. The cards can perform such functions as buying tickets, betting at the various soccer bets, purchases from sports shops etcetera.

Innovation may even take it beyond cards to NFC key holders, branded tags stuck to the phone and some other such on-the-person gadgets that can be used as a gate pass.

Under the bank-sponsor arrangement, banks and mobile network operators (MNOs) can mobilise deposits by offering incentives such as reduced ticket costs, VIP and priority treatment, club decision voting, crowd funding club activities, competitions and so on.

A great example of this is what NetOne’s One Wallet has effected for the One Wallet Cup. Unfortunately this has never ben expanded on for ordinary league fixtures and other operators haven’t taken it up. This is also the opportunity that I think local bank BancABC let loose when it was sponsoring the Super8 league.

Without focusing so much on the notable costs that come with any form of sponsorship in sports, the costs of deploying such a system are not hefty. An average card costs less than a dollar and lower if ordered in bulk and most targeted fans are already registered to some mobile wallet or bank. The equipment required are readers and POS machines at every service point.

The real benefits however go beyond just the deposits for banks. This investment has the potential to induce a culture of use of financial services via “plastic money” which is cheaper than cash. Once this culture is developed more sophisticated services can then be introduced.

The major advantage of this approach is the opportunity to capitalise on a large grouping of potential customers while using cost-effective technology. A few card readers and an unsophisticated network can reduce the pressure of ticketing queues and introduce a simple and smarter tap-and-go or swipe-and-go process.

This is opposed to the method used by Econet some time back in commuter transportation as that requires devices in each and every kombi and kills the need for touts who will fight to protect their livelihoods. It will take more than just offering commuters a payment alternative to upset that whole system. Tapping into football, just might help.

image credit: Newsday

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