The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has, according to its financial regulations directed that all mobile money transactions be carried out on the ZimSwitch platform. While such news can come with great dismay to Ecocash fanatics, some are quick to think the Econet empire might soon tumble. But I will be happy if such a move cuts down on some of the burdens we have been experiencing as the transacting public. Now, its a matter of time to tell if any benefits will accrue to the transacting public or if Ecocash will be able to withstand the possible tide. In this article, I reflect on some of the things I feel Ecocash should have paid attention to all this while.
Improve The Ease Of Transacting
Firstly, I am happy at the thought that this move by the RBZ would result in a remarkable ease of transaction. After all, the directive results in the cutting down on the wallet to bank and then bank to wallet processes where one wanted to move money from Ecocash to OneMoney. In all this tangle, someone was surely ripping us off and we had learnt to live with the fact. But given the influence yielded by Ecocash on the market, I believe that they should have gone to lengths in improving customer experiences in as far as moving money from one platform to another was concerned. It’s like becoming the big brother which Ecocash already is. Perhaps failure to do so was just an excuse to squeeze a few more cents from an already squeezed customer.
Now I have reason to argue that the directive by the Reserve bank will surely disrupt the mobile money arrangement and perhaps tilt the balance of power. One thing for sure is that Ecocash will surely lose a portion of its revenue stream and being a business owner, you would want to appreciate how that would make you feel. But, is there anything that Ecocash could have done to maintain the longevity of its revenue stream?
Strong Financial Flow Monitoring Systems Should Have Been Prioritised
Being a platform that handled public funds, Ecocash out rightly failed to issue a well structured and monitored system to keep an eye on all transactions. A simple way to do this was to fashion the platform in a manner slightly similar to a bank, where the Reserve bank has control over which Bank branch gets how much hard cash in any given day. Ecocash should have thus established a centralised system for its agents to surrender hard cash collected in a day or week. What this would have done is curb the hoarding of hard cash by mobile money agents who would then take advantage of the supply and demand matrix for their profit. For me, attending to this was and still is a critical factor which Ecocash ignored or perhaps nurtured. This would not have stopped agents from buying their own cash off the books but would’ve brought sanity within the system. Whichever way you might want to look at it, you would appreciate that the loose control over the flows of money on the Ecocash platform brought the mobile money giant at loggerheads with the Reserve Bank.
You could be asking, how would monitoring money flow help? Well, that ensures that agents have enough money to transact for a given day while excess cash is surrendered to be distributed to where it’s needed most. I am taking this from how I have seen Mukuru kiosks function. You wouldn`t want a situation where an agent in a busy place like Mbare Musika takes advantage into hoarding hard cash. But having experienced what we have experienced now, we can surely agree that whoever is handling public funds need to be closely monitored instead of being left to hang loosely.
Improve On Customer Care
Quite correctly, Ecocash has been poor on customer service and you can testify to this if you had one of your transaction stuck in the air. At some point, a request to have that transaction fixed would go for days on end without response. Imagine you are a customer about to make an urgent purchase and your Ecocash does the usual, no proof of transaction. Undoubtedly, the Ecocash system has been revolutionary and at best transformational in Zimbabwe`s financial sector but what seemed to weigh these achievements down are the persons responsible for making the system functional. A customer-driven model has not been observed by the responsible persons at Ecocash, If they did it was at best minimal.
We all know that Ecocash has been in existence without much of a challenge or competition. This should point at how brilliant their service was but that could soon change. With the government directive, Ecocash is now as good as Telecash or One money and much depends on the innovative capacity of each player instead of relying on an unlevel playground. Obviously, for Ecocash, the push factor to customers will be the costs of transactions they experience daily and if they can deal with it, chances are Ecocash could remain relevant. Remember, the market in Zimbabwe is very much price sensitive and if we can get a cheaper alternative there is no reason to settle with the costly option as long as both options work. Perhaps cutting down on the cost of transactions could be easy if Ecocash and Steward Bank merge their services, after all, they`re just two sides of the same coin. But amidst all this, I wonder if Steward Bank will also have the capacity to accommodate the millions of Ecocash subscribers into their already ailing systems.
As I said before, it’s only a matter of time to see what comes next but amidst all this, I wonder what would be the fate of mobile money agents. Who will they be casting their lots to or what loophole will they identify for exploitation.