Monday, 20 July 2015

Econet needs to monitor the standardisation of its EcoCash operations.

When one flies into Zimbabwe through the Harare International Airport, and get into the arrivals section for immigration formalities, you will get a glimpse of the large wall advertisements with a smiling lady answering a mobile phone. And on the adverts is written a catch-phrase, “Econet Wireless, inspired to change your world”, or in some instances, “Buddie, you’ve got a friend”. As you push your luggage through the arrivals hall, you will immediately see the same and Econet Shop on your right side ready to issue you with an Econet simcard to make you enjoy your stay in Zimbabwe.

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited, fondly known as Econet, is one of the three mobile network companies operating in Zimbabwe. Econet happens to be the largest of these mobile companies be it by subscriber base, asset base, workforce, revenue and/or profitability base, tax paid into the fiscus, number of brands/services offered to the market, you name them. Econet is indeed one of the blue-chip companies in Zimbabwe, founded by a passionate Christian and telecommunications business mogul, Dr Strive Masiyiwa, and whose current CEO is Mr. Douglas Mboweni. Dr Masiyiwa is the only Zimbabwean who always features on Forbes’ 50 Richest Africans every year.
Econet needs to monitor the standardisation of its EcoCash operations.
In its bid to dominate the business arena, Econet has diversified its business and has come up with many brands under its armpit such as Econet Connect Car, Econet Premium, Econet Broadband, EcoCash, Econet Solar, EcoFarmer, EcoSchool and EcoHealth. This article will focus on one of its most popular brands: ECOCASH.

Econet, together with its sidekick, Steward Bank, launched EcoCash, which is a mobile banking system. EcoCash became an instant favourite with millions of people who were now in a position to do normal banking and business transactions without necessarily opening up bank accounts due to strict requirements and conditions imposed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on traditional banks when opening new bank accounts. Ecocash has also helped ease the transfer of money throughout the country even during non-working hours. Quoting Econet’s Head of Marketing and Business Development, Mrs Natalie Jabangwe-Morris, at the recent ICAZ Conference in Victoria Falls, “EcoCash has cumulatively transacted over USD 11 billion in the last three and a half years in over 450 million transactions, with agents now in excess of 20000 countrywide”. This summarily puts into context how EcoCash has transformed the lives of people in Zimbabwe and the means of doing business.

However, there are many genuine questions that have been raised on whether Econet has really been able to administer the EcoCash platform with the exceptionality that they have promised the public. For example, how has the Econet’s quality control department dealt with the following issues vis-à-vis EcoCash operations:-
Econet needs to monitor the standardisation of its EcoCash operations.
1. Standard kiosks
2. Standard painting, colours and logo
3. Monitored placement of EcoCash kiosks for strategic distribution
4. Monitored requirements for cash-in/cash-out transactions
5. Uniformity of the names used to register for the line and the name used to register for EcoCash
6. Monitor the safety and security of the transacting agents
7. Monitoring of safety and security of the transacting public

Despite the fact that some of the questions/expectations above are not necessarily Econet’s responsibility, but for a business that has transacted more than USD 11 billion since its inception, surely Econet must have put some mechanisms in place to monitor standardisation of EcoCash operations. It is a fact that despite Econet having been providing secure and nice looking movable kiosks, not every agent has got the same. This has resulted in total mismatch of kiosks from one area to another. While there is a standard painting, appearance and logo, courtesy of Econet, but not every agent is priviledged to have such. The general transacting public have been treated to some of the worst looking kiosks, typical of a “musika” or “tangwena”; the ones that were long destroyed during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.
Econet needs to monitor the standardisation of its EcoCash operations.
EcoCash kiosks seem not be strategically distributed. While there seems to be some “order” when you are in CBD, these kiosks do not seem to have any strategic distribution in downtown or high density areas. In one area there might be ten kiosks, heavily concentrated, and another end there could be no kiosk at all. This ultimately brings confusion and inconvenience in the general transacting public. And then, why do EcoCash agents demand different requirements yet the service if the same? One may demand one’s national identity card or its equivalent, codes of the EcoCash transactions that would have been received into one’s phone, and signing one’s specimen signature on the EcoCash transactions book. But, surprisingly I have been able to transact on kiosks where I have not been asked any of the above, except just to receive my cash and go. So, are the ones demanding all these requirements being “too analytical” or “unfriendly”, or the ones not asking for these requirements are actually violating EcoCash rules and regulations endangering their businesses in the process. Which is which to the general transacting public, particularly those in deep down rural areas? How would they know all this?
Yours truly has been fortunate (or unfortunate, I don’t know) to meet people who have got Econet lines that are not registered in their names yet the EcoCash has been registered in their names. How is this possible our dear Econet? Isn’t it now a serious loophole of abuse of other people’s phones? Are your systems not able to detect this anomaly and correct it? Indeed, this is one area that requires urgent sanitisation. In addition to this, we have seen some agents or transacting public being robbed, and some being severely assaulted or killed in the process. All these require urgent attention from Econet. The final billion-dollar question is, “Does Dr Strive Masiyiwa, the board and senior management of Econet Wireless aware of these shortcomings?”
Econet needs to monitor the standardisation of its EcoCash operations.
With all having been said, EcoCash has indeed been able to change the lifestyles of many people in Zimbabwe. We will forever remain grateful as a nation, from Chirundu to Beitridge, and from Chimanimani to Victoria Falls. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!
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