If there’s one thing I love to do is to review software or mobile apps. In one of my previous articles, I mentioned about Econet’s plans to officially launch a chat and payments app called Sasai (actually ‘Sasai’ is street lingo for ‘chatting’). The app is a fast follower concept for China’s WeChat. The app was and is being worked on by Cassava Fintech International which is a subsidiary of Econet Global. It’s funny this morning I was thinking about the fact the fast following approach has been steadily growing in Africa. In the same vein, Sasai is looking to dethrone WhatsApp from its status as the most used chat app on the African continent. I downloaded the app from the Google Play store (it’s also available on the App Store) and checked it out.

Brief Synopsis

Interestingly, the app has been on the app stores since February this year (was released on the 28th of February). As at this moment, it’s been downloaded over 1000 times – so it’s still relatively in its infancy. It’s described as Africa’s ALL IN ONE app to chat, pay and play. Some of its features are real-time messaging, rich chats, voice messaging, contact cards, and personalized user profiles. It’s basically like WhatsApp but even better (particularly the payments feature).

First Impressions

So after downloading you have to register either by Facebook, Google or your mobile phone number. The app’s graphic user interface (GUI) is a good use of colours. It’s mainly variations of light green and lots of white. So I registered using my mobile number immediately after which I got my one-time password (OTP). My OTP was SMSed to my mobile number and I had to enter into onto the app after which I received an SMS saying I had been successfully verified. The SMS also contained my user ID which is a 9-digit number. Then I was all set and logged in to navigate through the app.

Basic Functionality

So the home screen has two tabs at the left top namely, Chats and Calls. Then to the top right, you have a button for accessing the QR code scanning and one for accessing contacts. The middle body of the home screen has your active chats area, a search tab and two buttons namely, ‘Invite Friends’ and ‘Who’s on Sasai’. At the very bottom you have four tabs namely, Chats, Pay, Explore and Profile. You also have a floating button with a chat bubble and a + sign for adding a new chat. The options on-screen are self-explanatory and the responsiveness and speed of loading for each option is quite good.

When you open a chat the basic functions available are familiar owing to their resemblance to WhatsApp. The striking feature is the Pay feature which is represented by a $ sign circled by two anti-clockwise arrows. When you click on that you’re taken to a dialogue screen which enables you to send money through your preferred payment method to that respective contact. Picture a scenario where you’re chatting to someone and you want to send them money through Ecocash. You won’t have to leave the app to go enter USSD codes to process the transactions. You’ll simply do it in-app right in the body of the active chat you’re having with the intended recipient.

If you click on the Pay tab you’ll be taken to a dialogue screen where you can receive or transfer payments. The wallet services catered for there are Pay Merchant, Pay Biller, Airtime Bundles, ZESA Prepaid and ZOL so far. By the way, you’re doing all this in-app – that’s the coolest thing about it. Before you can access all these payment services you must link your app to your preferred payment method. So far there’s only Ecocash Burundi and Zimbabwe. When you click the Pay tab for the first time or when you click the $ sign in an active chat for the first time you’ll be prompted to link to the preferred payment method.

I’ve always been fascinated by QR codes because of how cool they are to use. Sasai has the QR codes feature incorporated from contact sharing to funds transfer. Suppose you want to add a person to your friends’ list, you can simply open up a QR code and you’re automatically added. Also, suppose you want my contact info, I can produce my QR code which you scan with your phone and you automatically receive my contact details. I’m already imagining the many uses this can be put to e.g. no longer having to purchase physical tickets for an event. Rather you just register and pay in-app and on the day you produce your phone and get a QR code scanned for admittance.

On clicking the Explore tab you’re taken to a window where you get to explore your interests. So far the categories available are Music and Games. The Explore feature is powered by Vaya and Ownai. As for simplicity, ease of use and visual design I’ve already pointed to how sleek and smooth the GUI is.

The app is impressive visually; would for now give it a 9 out of 10. I’m still to test its features through interactions with my contacts and actual use of the functions will tell us more. This is proudly African and Cassava even indicated that Zimbabwe is an important market for them. In the Zimbabwean context with some zero-rating and connecting to our payments system (Ecocash really) Sasai has the potential to be a game changer.