M-Pesa, the mobile money platform which falls under telecoms giant Safaricom in Kenya, is the most developed one in Africa. Recently, after shifting the servers for the service from Germany to Kenya to cut costs and improve efficiency, the M-Pesa machine is sharper than ever, capable of completing 900 transactions per second, compared with 320 previously.
A fortnight ago, the CEO of the telecom giant Bob Collymore, reportedly told Bloomberg that M-Pesa was now handling transactions of about 5 billion shillings daily, or US$50 million .
We’re talking about a $1,5 billion economy a month. Just betting.
The reports go on:
“According to the CEO the growth in transaction volumes on M-Pesa has been attributed to the growth of Sports Betting in Kenya. Sports Betting now serves as one of the largest contributors to traffic on M-Pesa.”
Kenya leads. Can Zimbabwe follow suit?
Recently – in the same period that the Safaricom results came out, showing the surge in M-Pesa spurred by betting – Techzim coverage has included articles about both both mobile money and betting.
We covered the deal between EcoCash Zimbabwe and MTN Zambia that launched a ground-breaking cross-border remittance channel that will see local EcoCash wallets receiving money from the other side of the Zambezi. At the same time, we also covered the current state of betting in Zimbabwe, showing how shops in the industry have seen a surge in foot traffic and subsequently, the volumes of bets placed.
We also predicted from our own analysis that once the trigger of online gambling is pulled, another boom will be experienced in the industry, before adding another installment revealing that the infrastructure for online betting, and the experience of it, were already here in Zimbabwe.
But we never connected the two: mobile money, and sports betting.
The booming of popularity of the latter means that the economic opportunity is no longer confined to only gambling houses.
The opportunity is there for mobile money platforms like EcoCash, TeleCash and OneWallet – because, to take a leaf from the Kenya experience, punters use the mobile money platform to load their betting wallets with cash, and then use it to withdraw of their winnings.
What are we waiting for?
In the discussions that have followed our small series on the local betting industry, it has emerged that not only is the business opportunity strong for betting in Zimbabwe, but that outsiders are realizing it.
Several local entrepreneurs have reported receiving propositions from foreign investors seeking to capitalize on the opportunity. Most of the propositions did not go through.
When EcoCash recently launched its remittance partnership with MTN, the manager of the Econet subsidiary characterized hers as a company that has been notching stride after stride in the past two years.
Coming just a week after their Kenyan counterparts had revealed how sports betting is driving M-Pesa to new heights, Natalie Jabangwe’s presentation was high on current developments within her company, and low on what prospects EcoCash has lined up for short-term future growth.
To our knowledge, betting as one such avenue has not been mentioned by anyone at Econet. Even the link between Liquid’s fibre internet expansion and the boom in local betting is something we’re not certain has not been missed by Econet and its competitors.
Given the revelations of how sports betting has been proven as big driver for mobile money in a bigger market than Zimbabwe’s, it will be interesting to see if, and how, local M-money players will seek import those lessons back home.