Last Friday, Zimbabwe’s mobile money giant, Ecocash which is run by Cassava Smartech announced to its customers that they were going to undergo a major system upgrade. This meant that no transaction was to be successfully performed on the Ecocash platform.
According to data released by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), Ecocash accounts for over 93 percent of the total mobile money transfers that take place in Zimbabwe with the remainder being handled by Telecels Telecash and Netone’s OneMoney.
With transactions being grounded four days after the scheduled upgrade. The situation was made worse by the fact that the country is facing acute cash shortages across the entire economy and everyone who requires notes or coins has to pay a premium up to 50 percent on their Zimbabwean dollars.
It is important to take note of the fact that it is dangerous to have companies like Cassava Smartech with a monopolistic dominance in the country. Zimbabwe as a country should be seen to be promoting competition in every facet of the economy so that the general citizenry and business are not negatively affected by every turn of an upgrade or technical glitch.
This prolonged system upgrade by Ecocash which cost business millions of dollars exposes a gap that is within our ICT sector. An inside source has it on record that this major system upgrade was done by an outsourced International Company. One would pose a question that our state universities like UZ, HIT, NUST, and MSU are churning out thousands of graduates with degrees in ICT, are these graduates not skilled enough to be able to be taking care of such major systems upgrades?
The EcoCash system moves billions of Zimbabwean dollars’ worth of transaction value which include the purchase of goods and services, payment of bills, sending money from one person to the other and the movement of funds from one’s bank account to a wallet. The EcoCash platform has become so central in doing business for government departments, individuals and companies. It is the core of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy.
This Ecocash upgrade is the second within a few months when the National Financial Inclusion Strategy spearheaded by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is aiming to increase the overall level of access to formal financial services in the country from 69 percent to 90 percent.
The question at the back of every Zimbabwean following such a prolonged glitches which cost the majority of citizens money is does Zimbabwe have the skilled ICT labour force to do such programming? If so, how can the cap between practical competency and theoretical knowledge be bridged?