EcoCash might currently be in the eye of a storm, but the reality is that there is no viable alternative out there.
OneMoney is not a close competitor, as the NetOne unit lacks both public appeal and the necessary agent network to facilitate payments at a national scale.
Compared to EcoCash, OneMoney range of agents make up a tiny fraction of the total, essentially limiting their reach.
As for Telecel’s Telecash, the figures speak for themselves, accounting for just 0,8 percent of the mobile money national pie. The platform is the smallest of Zimbabwe’s three competing cellular phone operators, according to figures from regulator, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) 2019 second quarter report.
In terms of the value of transactions processed during the second quarter of 2019, EcoCash processed 99,6 percent of the total value of transactions up from 99,4 percent recorded in the previous quarter. Trailing behind, OneMoney processed 0,3 percent of the mobile money transactions processed during the quarter, which was a decline from 0,5 percent recorded in the previous quarter.
Telecash remained unchanged at 0,1 percent.
Now with the recent service disruptions experienced with EcoCash over the past fortnight due to unforeseen consequences of a system upgrade, NetOne now wants to capitalise on the confusion in the EcoCash camp to boost its own mobile money platform.
The mobile network operator has launched a promotion for its mobile money platform as it has zero rated all transaction charges except for the statutory 2 percent tax. This includes making purchases in shops, sending money to other mobile money users or buying airtime in a move anticipated to attract the market.
This has been one of NetOne’s failing — waiting to capitalise a competitor’s troubles instead of being innovative on their own.
While the market may cry foul over EcoCash’s inconsistencies in service provision, the mobile money platform may not shoulder the blame alone as the other operators failed to make meaningful investment into infrastructure and innovations.
In a previous interview, economist Dr Gift Mugano emphasised the important role of Government in opening the space for more operators, while the other two mobile operators have also not done enough to grow their businesses.
The old dispensation, he noted, was evasive to opening up the space for mobile operators that even Econet, now the biggest mobile operator had to struggle to be licensed.
“We have three operators but the other two did not do their homework and slept on the job and failed to make meaningful investments into the business. NetOne was the first to enter the mobile money business but slept on the job, did not invest enough into it like what Econet did.
“Government and the other two operators are the ones who are failing the market, not Econet,” he said.
NetOne was the first mobile operator to launch a mobile money platform, OneWallet, but failed to capitalise on their pioneering until EcoCash took over the market. In October 2017, NetOne revamped the mobile money transfer service to OneMoney from OneWallet, which management at the firm said was ready to take on competition and should make a positive contribution to total earnings on the back of continual growth in mobile money services.
However, market watchers say the firm still has a long way to claim a significant market share as it still has to grow its overall subscriber base as well as mobile money agents.
According to the POTRAZ second quarter report, EcoCash accounts for 94,4 percent of total mobile money subscriptions while OneMoney follows with a paltry 4,8 percent.
Mobile money is expected continue on a growth trajectory, creating scope for operators more investment in the businesses as it continues to play a key role in bridging the financial divide by providing safe, secure and cheap financial services in areas where many Zimbabweans have no access to formal banking systems.
“Volumes of mobile money payments are expected to maintain an upward trend due to the significant increase in the number of financial services offered on mobile money platforms,” says the POTRAZ report.