Safaricom (M-Pesa’s parent company) is reportedly working on a new social messaging application Bonga, which will be integrated with its M-Pesa payment service. Its customers will be able to chat and send, receive money on the platform.
The integration of mobile payment technology and messaging applications is a trend taking place globally. Facebook has opened its Messenger app up to payments. In China, Wechat and Tencent have rapidly driven the country towards becoming a cashless society.
Should Safaricom launch Bonga, up to 28 million users will chat and in that very same platform send and receive money via M-Pesa. This will effectively make it a conversational and transactional social network. The app is yet to go public, as Safaricom still runs it in beta stage among its staff.
The platform is reported to launch in three phases: Bonga Sasa will offer messaging and money transfer between individuals, enabling users to send or receive money while conversing with each other. Bonga Baraza is expected in mid-2018 and will allow users to collect money for purpose-driven events, including Kenya’s harambee collective fundraising drives. And Bonga Biashara will build on the use of social networks for commerce.
What impact will Bonga have on Safaricom?
Safaricom controls 69% of Kenya’s mobile telecommunications market with 29.5 million mobile subscriptions. The company adding messaging capabilities to their customer offerings increases the loyalty of their already dominant M-Pesa platform.
Can Econet follow suit?
Surely, Safaricom knows how to set the rules in the Kenyan business ecosystem Ecosystem, with its tentacles stretching to each and every category ranging from Money, Music, e-commerce and now Social.
Safaricom’s dominant role can be compared to Econet’s leading role in Zimbabwe. Some even dare to say that Econet copies Safaricom with Ecocash matching Mpesa, Ownai matching Masoko and Buddie Beatz somewhat matching Songamusic.
Accordingly, it’s not farfetched to think that Econet will copy Safaricom in introducing a platform like Bonga. But for a platform like Bonga to really gain traction in Zimbabwe, it has to have a superior competitive advantage to WhatsApp, which is the leading social message app in Zimbabwe. So, for Econet to migrate people from Whatsapp to its Bonga-like app will be an uphill battle.
Not forgetting that WhatsApp itself is developing a feature which will enable WhatsApp users to send, receive and make payments. Already in India, Whatsapp users are enjoying this feature. And Whatsapp is going out to roll out the feature globally anytime soon.
Therefore, Econet might likely not succeed in following Safaricom’s move as they might find it hard to dethrone Whatsapp should Whatsapp introduce its payment’s feature in Zimbabwe before them.
EcoCash is a mobile money transfer facility which is run by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. The facility has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception and is arguably the largest mobile money transfer agent considering the huge sums of transactions that the platform is said... Read More About EcoCash