This week the conversation around the water cooler has revolved around Interoperability, a word that for a very long time has been pushed by the ICT and Courier Services Minister, Hon Supa Mandiwanzira often met a lot of resistance by Econet.
As the dawn of a new era beckoned, many Zimbabweans could almost feel the hard currency gracing their wallets again, however, this was not to be.
The new dispensation has been clear in its mandate towards refreshing Zimbabwe’s economy and the reality of that lies in mobile money. However mobile money can only be effective if it can be accessed by anyone regardless of their network.
With 3 Telecoms in Zimbabwe, the assumption has always been that hell would freeze over before these players work together.
When news of the ability to transact on EcoCash with a Net One line trickled in, the question around the office was…has hell frozen over, is it April fools already, is it a prank?
And the resounding “NO!” came from testing out the theory. A NetOne line was used to download the EcoCash app and the EcoCash system was accessed by successfully transferring money to someone else.
So it is indeed a reality, NetOne customer can download the EcoCash app and transact. While the EcoCash ecosystem grows, NetOne can protect its data and voice business, therefore bowing out of the mobile money race. There is no more risk of of NetOne or Telecel losing customers to Econet because their customers can use Ecocash on their network
A lot of speculations have been made on who stands to benefit in such a structure and the regulator is the leader of pack as it sits in line with driving financial inclusion and ensuring the rights of the consumer are met.
Outside of Econet. Netone and Telecash are the next major benefiters in this Interoperability. And as EcoCash on board these new mobile money users into its extensive network, the conversation then goes beyond benefit amongst Telecoms; but rather EcoCash’s ability to interpret market needs that have a positive impact on the Zimbabwean economy.
Ultimately the true winner in all of this is the consumer.
Given the investment EcoCash has done in its business from the agency network to consumer behavioral change and proprietary system investment; it is clear that EcoCash has essentially given its competitors the red carpet to success.
And with NetOne bowing out of the Mobile Money race, at what cost will NetOne and/or Telecash enjoy the service that has so graciously fallen on the laps of their customers?
Government will need to bring all players to the table, map out financial structure and enforce payments from all other parties.
In the grander scheme of things it is refreshing to see an Operator being forward thinking and essentially empowering the consumer to tap into this extensive network. To be a winner in today’s market network agnosticism will eventually be the order of the day because the world as we know it was disrupted a long time ago.
It looks like the Minister of ICT and Courier Services has scored big on this one as a result of continuing to push for interoperability.