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Econet to give payments in Kombis another try with EcoCash ta

According to our sources, the operator is preparing to launch EcoCash ta as a payment method in kombis (these are minibuses which are the most popular form of public transport in Zimbabwe). A lot of people are now probably familiar with EcoCash ta, the  NFC (Near Field Communication) powered payment system that was introduced by Econet late last year.

The service uses an NFC tag which is fashioned in the form of a sticker and is linked to a user’s EcoCash wallet. To enable payment a user taps this sticker against a merchant’s enabled Point of Sale device and the corresponding amount is deducted instantly.

When we contacted Econet for comment they neither confirmed nor denied this and stated that,

The commuting public and commuter omnibus operators form part of our core target market. However, the market will be advised of material developments with regards to your enquiry.

Why kombis now?

Besides provide EcoCash ta customers with a simplified way of paying for public transport this looks like a way of boosting the popularity of EcoCash ta while angling for a hold on public transport finances. This would align perfectly with EcoCash’s strategy to morph Zimbabwe into a cashless society through mobile money.

However, introducing such options to the public transport segment will have its own challenges, something that EcoCash has already learnt the hard way.

Back in 2012 the operator introduced the option to pay for kombis via EcoCash through a service called EcoCash Commuter. Besides marking Econet’s entry into transport fares, this was supposed to ease the challenge of change owed to commuters by conductors.

The service was piloted at the University of Zimbabwe and according to information gathered at the time, Econet spent more than $20,000 offering students transport fares in the form of EcoCash deposits. Econet also placed an agent in each of the participating kombis who helped explain the process – something that was necessary at the time because EcoCash was still new and mobile money hadn’t caught on nationally.

The service was later propped up by promos that included kombi fare subsidies as well as an elaborate advertising campaign. Sadly the service failed because of challenges that included the long process involved with making an EcoCash payment, a resistance to change by transport operators who have always prefered cash (especially the kombi crew – driver and conductor), as well as the hassle of figuring out who had paid their fare via mobile money.

An EcoCash ta kombi payment system addresses some of the concerns from the 2012 EcoCash Commuter service, but it also has its own obstacles. For the service to take off there has to be massive adoption by kombi operators, something that requires all operators to have the NFC Point of Sale(POS) merchant devices.

Sources close to EcoCash have said that EcoCash intends to sell these POS devices to kombi operators via a credit scheme that would spread the $45 cost of the device over a 12 month period. Even if this works though, EcoCash would have to encourage a large number of its subscribers to make use of the EcoCash ta in the first place, not mentioning convincing users to keep transport fare saved in their EcoWallets.

In Kenya, Africa’s leading example of mobile money, the migration of public transport payment from a cash based system to an electronic one was made compulsory by the government and services like Google’s Beba Card, My1963 and KCB Pepea Card all stepped in to fill that void. But even with state led backing these services have encountered operational challenges leading a number of them like Beba Pay, Abiria Card and KCB Pepea Card to close shop.

It has been reported by Techmoran that the migration to a cashless system for public transport is also affected by challenges like poor law enforcement and a lack of awareness of the benefits of such a service.

If the rollout of EcoCash ta in kombis is to become a success in Zimbabwe it will likely have to overcome similar barriers and some that are particular to this market as well.

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11 thoughts on “Econet to give payments in Kombis another try with EcoCash ta

  1. I cannot see how this is going to work. I don think hwindi ane nguva yacho coz time hobho anenge achimhanya kanzuru.

  2. It is a novel thing to try tap into the income generated outside the tax bracket, the question will be do the public transport operators want to be a part of having their income checked as it would be easier to track.

    Well not the E.T operators its more the small cars used for commuting, i feel it they cannot reach those guys then it wont go very far. The better transport network the easier to integrate the payment system, but the more illicit or informal the system the harder it would be only if the guys dont want ZIMRA reaching into their newly found digital wallets. And maybe im too much of a sceptic

    1. You’re reasoning is quite sound.

      It’s a nice idea in an ideal & formal environment, but it is ignorant and naive when it comes to the market it aims to serve.

  3. I will not buy one as lm not able to see the value it adds besides asking zimra to chase me for taxes. Besides, you cannot have a cashless payment where at every police roadblock those police pple demand to paid in cash.

    If econet can convince the police to buy those ta nfc things and deploy them to evry roadblock, then maybe other l advise econet to save their money

  4. Won’t work.

    Wasting money again.

    And what happens if there are issues with the service or Econet?… Call Econet help desk?


    And the cash less passenger? The expectant operator?

  5. The problem is. The driver and conductor also want to cook books at the end of the day. Now when all the money is locked away in an e-wallet they can no longer cook books.
    They therefore will get the devices and put them under the driver seat and say no one uses it…. a week later Chakafa… chiriuramba, changachisina network etc.. (its broken, it wont work, it had no network)

    1. Good point there. Going to be a challenge for Econet. Similar system was used by kombis in cape town to a place called the waterfront. worked pretty well but then again it was easier because all fares were collected before departure as there was no pick ups along the way. Econet would have to encourage drivers/hwindis to collect fares when people get in but ne speed inenge ine mahwindi kumhanyira shura zvonetsa

    2. Your point is pretty good but the only issue is that now there is cash shortage in zim. A cashless solution is required. Opening a bank account comes with so much hassle and visa and mastercard are pretty expensive. This card does not require any bank account and works just solely through mobile operators. If there was no cash shortage then yes i would agree that there is no need for such a product but the options are getting slimmer

  6. Like the article pointed out, government must enforce use of cashless payment. As long as people have other options, this may be investment down the drain for Econet.

    1. “…government must enforce…”

      You must be deluded to think the government would force people on what medium of payment to use…just so that Econet can profit in its venture

      1. I understand what you mean but the liquidity crisis in zim is getting worse. Foreign investors are hesitating to invest due to the unstable conditions. Soon people eventually be forced to use diffrent means of payment since there wont be enough cash!! I too believe that the goverment has to atleast inform people about the crisis better and have them make the decision. This card is very affordable and you do not require a bank account unlike visa and mastercard. Its not about econet profiting, they have provided a sensible solution on which unfortunately not much is happening when it needs to!

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