POTRAZ Q2 2020 report is out and whilst the mobile money industry generally took a big hit, NetOne seemed to do exceedingly well in the same period. EcoCash (the industry leader) and Telecash lost 7.6% and 34% of their subscribers respectively.
In the same climate, one would assume that OneMoney would also be struggling but alas they grew by 60% – adding 337 708 subscribers in Q2 of 2020. So how did NetOne manage to add all these subscribers at a time when their competitors clearly struggled?
In early April (shortly after announcing the lockdown), the government gave NetOne its first big helping hand. Government announced that it would disburse COVID-19 relief funds exclusively via OneMoney. The implication of this announcement was simple. For low-income households, you needed to have a OneMoney account if you wanted to receive government assistance. This meant many households did the necessary thing and registered for OneMoney.
At the time the disbursement plan was announced the government said it would distribute funds to anywhere between 450 000 and 4 million people. Government never disclosed how many people ended up getting the funds but because they had already announced that the only way to get the funds was through OneMoney this certainly helped OneMoney’s subscriber count.
It seems like it was many moons when EcoCash was on a warpath with the government but that too kicked off in Q2. In May, the RBZ ordered EcoCash to freeze accounts that were handling over a ZW$100 000 monthly. The accounts were frozen. Similar regulations weren’t applied to OneMoney or Telecash and it’s fair to say that money-changers (the problem the RBZ was trying to solve) migrated to OneMoney. At the time changing money using OneMoney meant one would get a better rate (i.e more money) thus there was more incentive for both consumers and money-changers to be on OneMoney.
Shortly after this, EcoCash took the regulator to court and was counter-sued. The governor of the RBZ (in their lawsuit against EcoCash) directly attributed the country’s economic woes to EcoCash;
What the general public does not know is what happens in the interim. The funds that have not been credited to the vendor or the recipient are then available for trading on the Ecocash Platform in the foreign currency market. In effect, the delays allow a certain person, who was the subject matter of an investigation, to buy and sell foreign currency in the intervening period.John Mangudya
All this did not help EcoCash and only served to make OneMoney more attractive. Whilst regulatory scrutiny has now caught up with OneMoney as well, at the time it generally seemed like the government was fighting EcoCash and not the entire mobile money industry.
All the above largely resulted in NetOne adding over 300 000 subscribers and being the only mobile money service that saw growth in number of transactions (0.84%) and value of transactions (3.76%).
I think it’s also fair to attribute the same intervention as part of the reasons why NetOne is the only mobile network that didn’t see a drastic drop in subscriber numbers (-0.5%). Econet and Telecel lost 808 828 (-8.4%) and 100 321 subscribers respectively (-12.2%) in the same period.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see if OneMoney and NetOne can continue on that upward trajectory now that OneMoney is being subjected to the same harsh regulations as EcoCash.