Minister of Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security, Supa Mandiwanzira gave a deadline to all local Mobile Networks Operators to integrate their mobile banking platforms not later than April 1st, 2018.
The MNO’s in the country includes Telecel’s Telecash, Netone’s OneMoney and Econet’s Ecocash mobile banking platforms. Mandiwanzira said the ministry would like to encourage the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), who offer digital financial services, to consider making their services completely interoperable.
“We have noted with concern that whilst it is possible to send money to an unregistered customer on another network, the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platforms for operators are not yet fully integrated hence wallet to wallet funds transfer have not yet been integrated.
“The lack of Interoperability of the mobile money platforms of the networks is a major barrier to effective competition and stalls further progress in the development of mobile money services. Interoperability also brings convenience to consumers and the ease of doing business. In the event that there is no interoperability across all networks by the set date of 1 April 2018, the government will take the appropriate measures to enhance compliance,” he said.
Against the liquidity crisis currently plaguing the country, mobile banking has become one of the top utilised platforms for transacting in Zimbabwe. The platforms tops popular platforms such as RTGS in terms of volumes transacted.
According to 2017 National Payment System Data Mobile platforms accounted for 70.18% of total NPS transaction volumes in the year. The liquidity challenges have catalysed the use of plastic and virtual money and the latter is satisfied through Mobile Money platforms.
Consequently, mobile network operators have gained significant subscriber levels necessitated by the need to transact and adapt to a cash-lite economy. Mobile money interoperability is expected to improve access and efficiency in the industry, making it easy for subscribers to send money from one network to another seamlessly.
In Kenya, similar initiatives were tried and tested and the outcome was commendable. Presently in Kenya, all Mobile Money Operators have integrated their mobile money platforms. Such a move has not come without downside effects as some players in the Mobile Money Sector have demonstrated alleging that their own operations are under threat due to the loss of business to the disruptive technology associated with MNO’s
Some have argued that it is Government’s way of boosting its State-owned MNOs on Market Share value since they are failing to get the grip of the sector. Allowing more competition could lower the prices of the services and thus trim margins earned from the business. Government controls 2 of the 3 MNO’s in the country these being Telecel and Net One.
Increased competition will, however, provide other avenues for collaboration and sharing infrastructure among the operators and could cut costs of investments such as mobile money agents. the other argument in favour of enabling interoperability will be a dramatic increase mobile money transactional value on the Nation Payment System.