The Ministry of ICT issued an ultimatum to Mobile Money Services Providers to make their platforms interoperable, allowing users to send and receive money across platforms easily. But the process is likely to take longer than expected and shouldn’t be rushed as there are a lot of procedures to be followed.
All mobile money services in Zimbabwe are open to the idea of mobile money interoperability and they have started engaging each other to map up a way forward towards interoperability. A source within EcoCash said that while they are open to interoperability, it cannot be done in six weeks.
By Pearson Mbendera
“EcoCash is open to the idea of interoperability as long as the correct commercial arrangements are done. For interoperability to work, there is a lot that is involved like interconnect agreements. There are a lot of commercial arrangements that need to be entered in but this cannot be done in 6 weeks.”
The issue of mobile money interoperability has raised a lot of questions with some people questioning the timing of the initiative of a relatively new concept in Africa where mobile money is popular. The ministry of ICT is pushing hard for a quick interoperability of the mobile money services.
While a lot of users are happy with the idea of interoperability as it will add a lot of convenience, there are many considerations that need to be taken into account so that it doesn’t detriment the mobile money services players.
Interoperability is being tried in Kenya and Tanzania with the mobile money services in those countries. In Kenya, Mpesa and Airtel money commenced a pilot study in January on interoperability.
There is need to educate people as there are a lot of people who do not know what interoperability of mobile money services as some people took the claims that people on NetOne could register on EcoCash.
But interoperability isn’t limited to the expansion of one’s platform to all the networks but it is the interconnection of two or more services.
EcoCash had thrived with their platform working more as a stand alone with relatively less communication and integration to other platforms. Of all the mobile money services, EcoCash is the only one that is not a member of Zimswitch, hence their unavailability on ZIPIT. They went on to launch the ‘Swipe into EcoCash‘ option to enable cash-ins via Zimswitch and to add more convenience to the popular mobile money service.
The government argues that interoperability will foster competition and development of mobile money services in Zimbabwe. With EcoCash controlling the mobile money market, it remains to be seen whether interoperability will really foster the much needed competition and whether this will affect EcoCash’s dominance.