Op-Ed: Registration Without Interoperability: Is this Really Viable?

There has been rife speculation in the past days over the ability of NetOne and Telecel customers being able to transact on Econet’s mobile money transfer facility. The issue of mobile money interoperability has raised eyebrows of Zimbabwean mobile money users, who are questioning the initiative of the relatively new concept in Africa, where mobile financial service is fast becoming popular.

Users of EcoCash, OneMoney and TeleCash are happy and open to the idea as it will have added convenience, however many considerations need to be taken into account before finalization of an ultimatum by the Ministry of ICT with respect to Mobile Money Service provision. Once adopted the initiative will allow users to send and receive money across platforms with ease.

The media has been abuzz with claims that NetOne and Telecel users can now transact using EcoCash by downloading the EcoCash application to transact.

However, when one attempts to register their line from NetOne or Telecel on the mobile application the error “user not found” pops up. This is contrary to claims by Econet stating that subscribers can register on EcoCash with NetOne, Telecel and Econet numbers.

Despite being market leaders in the telecommunications industry, there is need for clarity and verification before misleading subscribers. Currently interoperability in Africa has only been successful in Kenya, where Mpesa and Airtel announced the availability of the service. It is important to note that interoperability involves the interconnection of two or more services.

The announcement by Econet is premature given that the Mobile Network Operators have not even concluded the first step of infrastructure sharing. EcoCash is currently not a member of Zimswitch, hence unavailability on ZIPIT and despite ability to link accounts through selected banks, they are predominantly associated with Steward bank. This means that NetOne and Telecel customers will face challenges to fund their wallets on the EcoCash application.

The government is on record with promoting the ease of doing business within Zimbabwe, however with respect to interoperability many procedures are yet to be finalized before its inception . The market awaits the much anticipated interoperability and official announcement by relevant authorities of its successful adoption and implementation in Zimbabwe.

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