Ownai, Econet’s startup offically launched with an objective to “help small businesses”

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
Tengai, Econet, Ownai, Zim Startups, Net neutrality

Ownai, the online classifieds startup from Econet has finally been officially launched.

Almost a month ago we shared news of its return (it existed briefly as Tengai) with Econet later stating how the site hadn’t been hacked on its return but was going through some testing and preparing for its proper launch.

Now, the platform is back online and it is offering the same online classifieds value proposition along with a free listing of goods and zero rated access for Econet Wireless broadband subscribers. That last bit is what got the platform (or rather Tengai as it was known then) attacked by net neutrality proponents.

Econet is looking past all of that, though. According to Douglas Mboweni, Econet’s CEO, the telecoms operator wants its customers who are running small businesses to see the operator as a partner that will help them make money. Tools like Ownai are supposed to enable this by offering free marketing of goods to Econet’s broadband customers.

Make way for a net neutrality violator and small business disruptor

Before we applaud the “enabling small businesses” rhetoric there are other realities on the ground that actually show that Econet and Ownai’s intentions won’t entirely benefit the small guy or be pro-small business.

Ownai has a lot to achieve in the market for Econet. As a tool that is meant to provide value for Econet through increased mobile money traffic for Econet’s mobile money service EcoCash, it enters the same stream of all the other Econet services that have been tapped to boost the operator’s revenue prospects.

It also has a unique role as the leading investment in online commerce and startup investment from an operator that is trying to redefine its position as a technology company that doesn’t rely on declining revenue streams like voice. In short it’s a tool made by Econet for Econet’s benefit.

The zero-rated access for Econet broadband subscribers (who are, coincidentally, the largest quotient of internet subscribers in Zimbabwe) will undoubtedly give it an edge, especially over incumbent online classifieds platforms in Zimbabwe that operate as small businesses and startups.

Such an advantage, which Econet could exploit for future startup ventures is what’s cracking eggs in the net neutrality camp.

However, in a market like ours that suffers from an absence of regulatory intervention, it looks like other startups and small businesses (for now it’s just the guys doing online classifieds that have been disrupted) will have to work twice as hard to provide a better product and service value proposition to beat Econet’s free ninety-nine offer.

So much for helping small businesses.


  1. harare.property-guy

    Just visited the ownai site. Seems pretty cool. As a real estate agent I think the service will help us advertise our properties to a wider demographic. Also like that Econet are providing the service data free for their subsribers – i think that should help draw more people to visit the site and therefore I hope more viewers to our properties.

    1. tinm@n

      We know you’re really an Ownai employee, but we’ll just pretend not to see that it’s overly self-promotional and doesnt sound authentic

  2. tinodoa

    You seem surprised that econet has launched a business to help drive revenue growth. Isn’t that what businesses do. That aside, I think ownai can seriously help many businesses in Zimbabwe by providing them with ability to advertise their products and services for free online. Guys at techzim need to start looking at the bigger picture rather than always attack new initiatives. I’m going to try ownai and see how many responses I can get for my business – risk free as I’m not having to pay anything to advertise.

    1. Tii

      Guys can advertise free on all the existing sites, classifieds, myclassifieds, zimpaperclassifieds, what new does this offer besides econet abusing their monopoly on data, its a basic site which I cannot see offering anything the other sites don’t already have where is the innovation?

      1. Cool

        Jus lyk Nigel , I dnt knw why u guys only make noise about net nuetrality whenever tenga-onwai shows up. If u guys wanna talk about net neutrality , u better start with Internet bundles. Sometime ago I mentioned th lack of innovation on our current e-commerce sites. And Tenga-Onwai saw an opportunity to fill tht neglected gap ma kungoti hee neutrality hee what what. Go and polish up yo websites full stop. Onwai is much closer to world class standard

        1. William Chui

          No, this is not an issue only when Tengai/Ownai comes up:
          Over a year ago, this post was made

      2. Anonymous

        classifieds zw only allows you to upload 5 free ads. After that you need to pay – at least I had to. They charge you different prices depending on how many additional ads you want. Looks like Ownai is 100% free with unlimitted ad uploads + free browsing for econet customers and they also appear to have a free SMS feature for buyers to contact sellers without spending money on calling them.

    2. Kudzai

      How can i register to advitise my pulpits and podiums that i manufacture

  3. Zvinei

    I didn’t go far with my education, so if my comment reflects that please ignore it.
    Locally why do websites launch vakati “Number 1 this..” etc? I fail to see the logic behind, and (not that it matters though I guess) doesn’t it not only build unhealthy competition to start in a market by dissing the efforts of the founding/earlier players who made such a market to be there in the first place?

    Anyway, probably a simple thing I’m missing that they teach in school

    1. Anonymous

      I guess No.1 can mean many things. No.1 for best website; No.1 for number of ads; No.1 for biggest potential market for sellers; No.1 for best features. I think Ownai ticks quite a few of those but not all just yet.

      1. Anonymous

        it’s called fake it till you make it 🙂 #1 for number of ads: most def not! #1 for biggest potential market: Nope, their maximum potential is 8m (their subscribers) since they locked it down so only econet subs can post vs other classifieds companies whose market is the entire internet. #1 for best features: it is a very basic site. So summary is just claim you are #1 and hope that people who don’t know any better will believe you and if enough of them do, you may one day truly become #1

        1. tendai94

          They claim to be the No.1 “Free” online market. I guess that is a true statement as most other competitors are not completely free. classifeds zw and others only offer limitted posting of free ads. after that they ask you to pay to post additional ads. also i guess no other site offers free browsing to customers. so I think they can probably claim to be the No.1 Free online market.

          1. Anonymous

            do you really believe Econet will keep this completely free in the long run? I admit they are the #1 ‘Free for now’ classifieds site in Zimbabwe (when it is back online!)

  4. Dadaya Nkoloma

    Finally they are back online after testing their open source and free service classifieds CMS.

    1. Dadaya Nkoloma


  5. ownaifan

    just posted an ad on ownai. v easy compared to other classifieds i tried befor. like how theyve made it a simple process and quick process. hope now to sell my item just as quick. need the money in this economy. nice one econet – thanks.

  6. Reaaly??

    Econet already has a lot of Philanthropic initiatives under their arms, why you want them to add Ownai to that portfolio baffles us.
    They are ‘trying’ to innovate in a falling economy.

    Pretty much sounds like a clarion call to hack Ownai.co.zw from you Nigel. Shame on you. Mxm.

  7. macd chip

    Econet is not a charity organisation, there are in this for money. If zero rating is what they will bring them much needed cash, then they must do that. Let the market prove them wrong.

    Econet did not become the largest mobile phone through donations of clients, people are voting with their dollars. They have invested a lot of money to be where they are.

  8. carol

    I like it. The website seem very easy to use. Heard the ownai radio jingle when I drove home last night – pretty catchy tune – still in my head! Think it will do well with for econet.

  9. AndThen

    looks like it’s already broken!!
    Osclass » Error

    Osclass database server is not available. Need more help?

    1. Tj

      Yes its already broken,a sham site!

      1. techy

        they must have sent that SMS to all of there subscribers at once. too much traffic for the site to handle at one go. 7 million potential users trying to access at once .

  10. AndThen

    down immediately after they send me a spam SMS to my fone to check out Ownai. guess they can’t handle the load. Maybe ownai got owned by those hackers again!

  11. pUNkie

    Cant open the site, is it real

  12. chimdhara

    they r scaming us again

  13. aj muwonwa

    finally we can buy and sell in Zimbabwe. Hope fully people get a handle on it. easy p… like olx. thank you so much

  14. Christiano ronaldo


  15. Kennedy Mironga

    l wellcome this platform hoping it will help us in future

    1. Joseph

      Yeh. So do I. Econet doesn’t always get it right but I think ownai has potential. Early days but I’m intrigued to see where they will take this. I’m guessing they will eventually offer online payments and turn ownai into a proper online retail shop. There’s certainly a gap for that kinda service in zimbabwe.

  16. Promise Pascale

    we welcome you future

  17. Developer

    Free CMS crushes like silly!! Hehehe!!

  18. elisha nyangaire

    a noble initiative especially for the SMEs

  19. chris

    i hp and do trust the developers will stay alert al the times to prevent any jams

  20. Mamoyo

    This is really exciting/

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