Econet owes it to government to share EcoCash agent network, says Supa Mandiwanzira (full speech)

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Below is the full response by Zimbabwe ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira to statements made by EcoCash Head, Natalie Jabangwe-Morris, who had said that the Econet group needs first to recoup its investment in its EcoCash distribution network, before allowing other players to share its infrastructure.

The reason why EcoCash is the biggest is because of Econet which is the biggest mobile network in this country, and it is the biggest because it was licensed by government. it is one of the biggest payers of taxes to Mr. Chinamasa. It is the biggest tax payer because they make the money. They make the money because they were licensed by government.

They do so because government protects them to maintain that position. If government did not want EcoCash or Econet to be the largest we would have opened our gates for Safaricom to come and operate Safaricom in this market. We could have allowed MTN to set up in this market and offer the services that Econet offers.

And I can assure you they come with a huge pocket to dwarf any player in this market and they have been knocking on our doors. But we have kept them closed because we want to protect them.

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Now it is wrong to assume that you have first mover advantage, and therefore you must close out other Zimbabweans from benefiting from a system which you have been licensed on. The government is spending resources defending you to ensure competition doesn’t come and grab your market.

It is important to understand that when you are leading in the market you also have to be responsible. Because you’re leading not because you are the smartest but because the environment which we have offered allows you.

If we had given this license to someone else we would have probably been much better, or far better than what you are doing.

Zimbabweans have a tendency to think that they are smarter than everyone else and that everybody is a fool. And that government doesn;’t understand that the reason they are successful is because of them – the government.

So today I want to make it clear that Econet, EcoCash are very successful, thanks to the government of Zimbabwe because we protect them.

But when we say we have a crisis and we need to open up doors to allow other Zimbabweans to utilize the infrastructure you have built because you were at the right place at the right time. And you are operating on a finite resource, which is a frequency and we cannot create many frequencies to allow other players to come on board. Open up the infrastructure, allows us to share.

When EcoCash, Telecash and OneWallet came to the ministry and said, we recognise that the government has the biggest infrastructure in terms of post offices, more than 230 across the country. We would like to operate our mobile money services through these post offices. We didn’t say “Oh, we spent a lot of money, we need to recover it, allow Zimpost to do it first before you do it.”

We opened up the postal network so that EcoCash could be as big as it is today. So it’s not wrong for government to expect Econet to share its infrastructure as well with other operators.

And when we say share with other operators, there’s a tendency to believe that we want to protect NetOne. I want to make this very clear. I don’t support people who are incompetant. I don’t support mediocrity. if they cannot compete with EcoCash that’s it! let’s find other people who are good to run NetOne to be able to do that.

But we want this opportunity not for those that are already in the market, we want young men and women who are coming up with brilliant value added services to sit on your infrastructure for a fee.

Now if someone else brings a SupaCash instead of an EcoCash, you must be allowed to use the infrastructure of EcoCash. It must be another revenue centre for EcoCash that we’re now also sitting on their platform. We can’t block everybody.

We’re saying it’s an advantage to have a license. You were there when the licenses were being given. There are Zimbabweans who are smarter today who deserve those licenses but they no longer have the opportunity. Allow your infrastructure to help others who want to get into business. Not Telecash, not OneWallet because they must build their own systems.

But what about these Zimbabweans who have brilliant ideas and want to sit on that infrastructure. Who can no longer get a frequency that you obtained via the license. If you have built infrastructure, allow others to use that infrastructure.

One of the things I avoided mentioning in my speech is the cost of mobile money services. And I’m sure Natalie you have heard a lot of complaints that EcoCash is very expensive. This is a market reaction.

We believe that EcoCash can reduce its costs if it allows other new players, old players to share its agency network. And I know one of the reasons why you are expensive is that you incentivise the agents, you give them a higher percentage of these transactions they do. But if they are now being used by 3 or 4 other players, you are able to reduce your own commissions to them, because they are recovering those costs from other players and therefore your cost to the consumer is reduced.

We cannot create an impression of a monopoly, and I’m not suggesting that’s what you’re doing, or a monopoly where “because I built this infrastructure, it’s me, I must make money. no banks can come on board. No other networks can come on board. I’m the only one, I’m the smartest.”

No, nobody is smarter than anybody. And especially if you’re given an opportunity that comes with a license.

But if you’re creative and yo come up with your own software, it doesn’t require a license, so you can claim to be smart. But if you’re given a license by the authority. This license comes within a limited field of licenses that can be issued, I think it’s reasonable for government to expect that there’s sharing of that infrastructure.

And we don’t expect people to ride on that infrastructure for free. They must pay for the use of that infrastructure, so when we talk about infrastructure sharing within the mobile money systems. We’re talking more in terms of allowing other players – creating more opportunities for new investors to come on board.
I think you had Natalie presenting here and she emphasised one of the biggest advantage that we have for this NFC to be adopted rapidly is that we have a mobile penetration of more than 105% in this country. It’s a result of government investment and private sector investment. So when a player in this sector goes to Europe to raise money, those statistics have a value in money that you raise. So government has invested. it can’t be an individual company that has made this investment – it is all Zimbabweans.

When I buy this cellphone for $700, I have added value to your network not necessarily because I’m using your network but because I’m not a statistic that you can use to raise money. Similarly government has invested in telecommunications infrastructure which allows for mobile money to now take place, clearly it must be recognised that it has done something and therefore when we are considering our business strategy we must not look at what government requests as trying to undermine other businesses. in fact we like the success that Econet and EcoCash have done. They have put Zimbabwe on the map.

Ofcourse we sing about M-pesa, but this is a remarkable story. Given our population and the time it has taken to develop EcoCash it’s a phenomenal story and it must be used as an example.

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29 Comments

  1. SupaCash says:

    Supa you should be %^$&#@! Stop trying to act as if econet owes it to government that they are were they are now. remember it took a 5 year legal battle for government to finally grant econet their first licence. Now they are successful you want to act like they owe you something. Fine you want to licence Safaricom and MTN go ahead! The real reason why you haven’t is coz you corrupt idiots will try and bring your indigenisation crap. You should focus on your own parastatal networks that are in the shit.

  2. #ThisFlag says:

    EcoCash made a reckless statement on the wrong platform. A government officer and director of Payments at RBZ were present, the best you could do was to take a neutral position and avoid appearing arrogant. Less enemies is better. You may not like Supa, but he remains an official of the gov. Sometimes less is more…

    1. Pfidzo says:

      Don’t use the flag to put across your point of you. It’s nothing to do with such politics. Thank you

  3. Anonymous says:

    Reckless how – stating FACTS IS RECKLESS – lets not be immature here – if the Min of ICT dont know how much it takes to get something as big as Ecocash going he needs to go RTFM…

    A government is meant to create an environment where locals and their business can succeed to better the lives of other locals and it should not want THANK YOUs for that –

    its like a father want to be thank for raising his child – COME ON now – lets not do this. International Business already doesnt want to play with us now you want to start messing with the local businesses

  4. SupaCash says:

    The Government therefore didn’t protect EcoCash alone, all the other “incompetent people” to quote the minister, where protected from foreign competition. Give EcoCash access to sell Zesa Prepaid vouchers if you want to create a fair environment for all.

  5. purple says:

    These are the words of a sore loser. What more can we say. Dude is just trying to fight a brickwall. At one time the odds where in Net1’s favour bt then it became complacent. Government should be thanking Econet for giving a life line to Zimpost through Ecocash and econet product sales. This minister’s views fail to take into account the dynamics of the industry.

  6. Bitch says:

    Supa, I thought u are a business man. Clearly you are not!

    1. Intense Plot Thickening says:

      Oh, he is! Think about it, he’s making sure that SupaCash will make maximum profit from the least possible investment! Watch this space!

  7. FactsOnly says:

    Stand firm Econet! These bastards think everything belongs to them…ndezvake if he thinks SafariCom and MTN will come in and stand their crap let them in then!
    #LookUpZimbabwe #thisflag

  8. Stephen Mudere says:

    Well just let the damn Safaricom and MTN come lol…. Doubt if they are intrested

  9. Panyanga says:

    Is this guy for real? Econet owes it to the same government whom they had to fight tooth and nail to get a license?

  10. CONFUSED says:

    Am I loosing it here, this in other ways means the government has a right to use my personal car because they I paid for a vehicle licence from the government (ZINARA)? or i were to pay for a ZBC licence that means i have given them the right to my remote control so they can change channels ‘oops sorry its just 1 channel’ increase or decrease volume. This is mere stupidity not expected from a person who holds a public office.

  11. #Here Goes my Supa Minister says:

    I thought the same protection was given also to other platforms. For the record EcoCash wasnt the first mobile wallet, but it overtook One Wallet. Was it government protection? If it was then they should share the infrastructure otherwise infrasture sharing should be done on commercial terms

  12. JFK says:

    Econet’s argument doesn’t make sense. If they invested so much, then their services should be cheaper. They are just an inefficient monopoly and they are ripping us off.

    1. #Here Goes my Supa Minister says:

      Yes they may want to monopolise but a quicky one JFK, which principle of economics which states that when a company invested much then their service(s) should be cheap?

  13. Langton says:

    So this learned minister is telling us that they are refusing ,ore players because they want to protect Econet? This is just bollock!

  14. David says:

    That is a very silly response by the Minister, why is Telecash and Net1 cach not doing as well as ecocash?

  15. Yimi Lizangenzani says:

    Just deal with corruption within your government and stop tormenting people for their success. Nxa

  16. Jerry Doghead says:

    Supa is talking nonsense. Did Econet stopped you to let MTN and Safaricom invest in Zimbabwe? Econet does not owe the government anything and doesn’t need any favours from anyone. You don’t need to lecture them on how to run their business. Econet has been running their business without anyone’s input for years now. So leave them alone and let them do what they know best. Invite MTN and Safaricom in the market no one stops you and by doing that it will help to create employment and competition.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This chap should go back to zbc news @ 8 where he can talk all his air out…one of the reasons we are still in a mess is because of wrong people in wrong positions….blink

  18. Ed says:

    Supa, when you have Econet the licence did you also give them the infrastructure. Shame on you. What government eyes private business assets. Parasites!

  19. Anonymous says:

    This nonsense

  20. Supa Crazy says:

    Then P.O Box must share studio space with your ZiFM

  21. Luxford says:

    Ecocash does not owe the govenment nothing,whatever protection they assume to have given ecocash is their duty,thought thats were indiginisation plays in,now threats of accomodating foreign network are absurd..

  22. Luxford says:

    And you expert to attract foreign investment.

  23. Supacash 1 says:

    Ndakazvitaura ini kuti zimbabwe hakuna kwainoenda nevanhu vakaita sana supacash mandiwanzira, who were appointed on dubious qualifications basis. Iye, kasukuwere na zhuwao are the reasons we will never have any tangible investment in this country. As long as they remain ministers, then we are not serious as a country about development and betterment to our people

  24. Len says:

    What kind of government allows a business to grow on its own hard work and investment and then when the govt realizes that this innovative business is enormously successful, it then demands something back (as if their taxes and employment creation are not enough) as if Econet owes them anything. Not too long ago they were pressing for Econet to SHARE its infrastructure with competitors (i’m sure they meant NetOne). This is the kind of thinking that keeps investors away.

  25. mayo says:

    hogwash. supa

  26. Anonymous says:

    You Make Money, not because of GOVERNMENT but because you have ordinary people using your platform, Governments do not make money, They get money via Taxes, Please show me who the Tax Collecting agencies belong to, Central Banks, The puppets are put there to run it for the cabal.

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