EcoCash Is A Disruptive Innovation ‘Covfefe’ Taking Over Zimbabwe

EcoCash was launched by Econet Wireless in September 2011, since then, across Zimbabwe a network of “human ATMs” immensely accelerated. EcoCash is an innovative mobile payment solution that enables Econet customers to complete simple financial transactions such as sending money to loved ones, buying prepaid airtime for themselves or other Econet subscribers and paying for goods and services.

Zimbabwe recently witnessed the rise of mobile money and digital payment solutions which have increasingly been embraced across the world. EcoCash undeniably out shined all of its competitors to become Zimbabwe’s most popular platform for doing transactions. The product has received global attention due to its uniqueness, convenience, innovativeness, rapid adoption, and the impact it has made to a large population, and its capability to reach the unbanked adults such as the poor (bottom of pyramid), women, youths and those living in the rural areas. The product has connected a population which was hitherto disconnected from accessing financial services.

Econet-Mahindra-Glomo-17
Vamsi Madhav, VP, MFS at Comviva and Natalie Jabangwe (Right) – the General Manager of EcoCash

Early this year EcoCash was named Best Mobile Payment Solution at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Global Mobile (Glomo) Awards for 2017. The award was received in partnership with Mahindra Comviva, Econet’s global technology services vendor which is behind the EcoCash platform and several of its service iterations. EcoCash came out tops in the Connected Life Awards category and beat nominees that included Telenor Pakistan with its Easypay service; Tigo Rwanda’s Tigo cash digital payment solution; Vodafone, Carta Worldwide & Raphael’s & Sons’ Vodafone Wallet and Mahindra Comviva’s own Mobiquity Wallet Hybrid HCE solution.

Understanding Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation is one that creates a new market in a different way which overtakes an existing market. This can be contrasted with sustaining innovations which are new ideas, technologies or processes that do not affect existing markets, but lead to incremental improvements in the offering in an existing market.

For example, laptop manufacturers can make incremental improvements on laptops, such as speed, hard-drive capacity, screen resolution, and so forth. Such innovations are sustaining. The improvements do no create new markets. However, tablets and the smartphones have been disruptive to the laptop and PCs market as they created a new market with a different set of values. A disruptive innovation, therefore, creates a new market, and a new value network, eventually and unexpectedly disrupting and displacing existing technologies and offerings in an existing market.

EcoCash is a Disruptive Innovation

EcoCash is a disruptive innovation. It created a new market and value network, disrupting the existing ones and becoming a major competitor against the established market leaders and alliances in the financial services sector in Zimbabwe. Therefore, if there is a disruptive innovation which Zimbabwe must recognize, then EcoCash is irrevocable. The world’s transition from analog systems straight into digitization has ushered in new enterprising solutions which have revolutionized the way people run their day-to-day business.

EcoCash in now the most converged mobile payment solution which has integrated international digital payments powerhouses like MasterCard which allows their Debit Card holders to conveniently make international transactions anywhere in the world.

In Zimbabwe, EcoCash has now integrated over eight banks which include the below banks:

  • Steward Bank
  • Agribank
  • ZB Bank
  • Banc ABC
  • CBZ
  • Stanbic
  • NMB
  • FBC
  • CABS

Except for Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank Account holders, all account holders with the above banks are able to link their bank accounts with their EcoCash accounts, providing convenience to users to directly transfer money to their EcoCash wallets from their bank accounts, to pay bills, buy airtime and many other things in the comfort of their homes without having to physically visit the ever queued banking halls.

Furthermore, EcoCash entered into various partnerships with other international mobile money service providers which include Mukuru from South Africa, Chitoro from UK, MTN of Zambia among many other collaborations made in 2015-16 trading season.

EcoCash-Zinara
EcoCash-Zinara Partnership

In addition, recently on the 22nd of June , EcoCash and the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) announced a partnership that will see tollgates linking directly with customers’ EcoCash wallets. EcoCash went on to launch a mobile app in partnership with ZINARA specifically designed for paying tollgate fees. Considering the worsening cash crisis prevailing in the country, this solution came as a timely relief for all road users taking into account that tollgate fees are pegged at $2 for light vehicles and $3 for minibuses whilst buses, heavy vehicles and haulage trucks pay $4, $5 and $10 respectively.

Commenting on this innovative development, Chief Executive Officer of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Mr Douglas Mboweni said he believed the service would help travelling motorists to experience the convenience of using EcoCash while providing Zinara with a safe, secure and convenient revenue collection method.

“With EcoCash, we continue to give our customers the security, convenience, affordability and acceptability of mobile money payments to buy almost everything from groceries, furniture and fuel to vegetables at the markets. The partnership with ZINARA is strategic for us as we continuously work at finding solutions for our customers in line with the cashless payments adoption vision.”

The General Manager for EcoCash Natalie Jabangwe-Morris said her organisation’s aim was to support the government and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s efforts in ensuring financial inclusion by providing ease of transacting for all citizens everywhere.

“We have tirelessly worked on this world-class innovation, following suit to developed countries where tollgate payments are pre-planned and pre-paid to provide auto access. The state of the art value proposition is not the ordinary Pay Merchant but a specific solution unique to ZINARA, which allows users to link a mobile phone wallet with a registered vehicle for auto-detection and instant access at the tollgate. The auto detection of the pre-loaded toll wallet at toll gate offers complete disruption to the manual payment method of cash and cards, saving motorists queuing time with a payment experience of under 10 seconds granting express toll access to motorists.”

To conclude, with reference to the recently released POTRAZ first quarter performance report for 2017, EcoCash has the uncontested share of active mobile money subscribers of 3,245,405 from the country’s total subscriber base of 3,251,784. This clearly shows that, by virtue of being the most widely accepted mobile money solution, EcoCash will continue to be Zimbabwe’s supreme mobile platform expected to oversee the country’s transition into a totally converged digital economy.

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