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Local networks in cutthroat competition

Zimbabwe’s mobile network market has seen a lot of competition if the players ability to offer wide and reliable coverage at the early stages of mobile telephony right through to around around 2000 and at inception of the multiple currency regime in 2009, is anything to go by.

Taurai Mangudhla

As the coverage approaches saturation in terms of geographical spread, the three players-Econet Wireless (Econet), NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe (Telecel) — are battling it out on extra services that are outside the usual voice, short message service or data provision.

Mobile money services have become the new turf for mobile networks operators in Zimbabwe with the three players working around the clock for innovations to get an edge over their rivals.

According to national figures, 40% of Zimbabwe’s population, which stands at 13 million, is financially excluded and another 22% rely on informal financial products or services.

The country’s second largest mobile network provider, Telecel, last week became the latest to announce yet another feature on its mobile services. An insurance product to be known as Telecare.

In a statement, Telecel said it is partnering with local insurance company — Zimnat Lion (Zimnat) — to roll out a mobile insurance product that offers its subscribers funeral, hospital and local and international travel cover.

Telecel head of marketing Clever Isaya said the initiative was unique in the market as Telecare provides three different insurance plans under one service.

He said the new service was expected to assist Zimbabweans who cannot afford traditional insurance products due to high costs.

The company said customers will be able to make premium payments on a monthly basis from their mobile phones to get access to two packages, namely single and family. The single policy will only cover an individual who is the policyholder, while the family policy will cover the policyholder, a spouse and up to 4 children.

“The partnership between Telecel and Zimnat Life will also ensure that the cost of insurance is dramatically reduced for the ordinary person in the street. Under the partnership, Telecel will provide the mobile platform for its subscribers to access the service while Zimnat will underwrite and administer the full service,” said Telecel.

“All claims will be settled through Zimnat but subscribers are able to submit their claims at any Telecel office for onward transmission to Zimnat.”

Customers are charged between US0,45 and US$1,50 a month to get as much as US$5 000 local travel cover and US$50 000 international cover plus US$20 daily cash back on the product’s four different classes.

“There are other plans to increase the range of complimentary insurance services once the first phase has been successfully rolled out,” said Telecel.

In an interview this week with businessdigest, Telecel comunication and branding director Obert Mandimika, said his company’s is targeting to sign on around 230 000 of its subscribers Telecare in the first three months.

“As you are aware we have an active subscriber base of 2,3 million so that it informs us in terms of our targets if we are able to, within the first three months, have a 10% conversion it will be fantastic,” said Mandimika.

“Right now for us it’s a new service, it’s a ground breaking kind of thing so basically we are playing it more by the ear and looking maybe to review and see the uptake in three months.”

He said management’s thrust was offering additional services at affordable rates to grow and stabilise subscribers numbers.

“For us the biggest bit is that when one registers for the product they register o a Telecel line so it increases our customers and when they are already on our base there may be churn, but if they have valuable additional services then they keep using the line hence we have a larger subscriber base and address the issue of churn,” he said.

The churn rate, as it relates to mobile network carriers, is the percentage of subscribers in a given time frame that cease to use the company’s services for one reason or another.

He said Telecash, as the primary payment method, would get a commission primarily meant to cover administrative expenses.

Telecel last week also announced the launch of a telecash Android application, which is already available on Google’s Play Store. The application makes it easier and faster for telecash users to transact.

The telecash app which can be downloaded for free from Google’s Play Store, allows telecash subscribers to carry out various transactions like bill payments, purchases, locating agents in an area, cashing out, sending money and making balance inquiries.
Telecare comes two months after Telecel unveiled a debit card for its Telecash mobile money subscribers known as Telecash gold card.

Telecel said the card can be used to pay for groceries, DSTV subscriptions, restaurant and hotel bills, and many other goods and services. It can also be used to withdraw cash at ZimSwitch branded automated teller machines.

The card enables banked individuals to send funds instantly to any Telecash account from any of the existing delivery channels already available in Zimbabwe including POS, ATM, Mobile and Internet Banking.

In an update, Mandimika said the gold card has done very well to exceed company expectations in the first month.

Telecel head of mobile financial services Author Matsaudza said the company signed on 20 000 of its subscribers on to the gold card system.

“The experience according to customers is excellent and now for us the idea is we get more traffic,” said Matsaudza.

“We didn’t expected that we get 20 000 in a matter of days so we have a lot f customers already enjoying the value of that card and our focus now is to make sure we really hammer on as many transactions as possible and also grow the customer base for our card.”

Soon after announcement of the Telecash gold card in July, the country’s number one mobile network provider Econet announced an agreement with MasterCard expected to result in more than three million MasterCard debit cards being issued to mobile money provider EcoCash’s customers in the next five years.
EcoCash is Econet’s mobile money service.

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