NECESSITY BECOMES THE MOTHER OF REALITY

Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi once said discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking of what nobody has thought of.

This is what MobiPay management (the 2011 award-winning company in the Innovative Company of the Year’s category) has successfully done through their cheap, convenient, secure, affordable and accessible mobile payment system popularly known as “cash on your mobile phone”.

The system allows one to shop, make payments or purchase goods and services as well as send money to anyone at anytime of the day, all from a mobile phone.

It also allows one to transfer money, buy airtime and electricity, make point of sale payments in supermarkets or retailers, pay for DStv and other bills.

“The MobiPay concept seeks to financially empower and include all Namibians into a financial space. It is more than just a mobile phone monetary facility as it brings out financial management tools that match the responsibility that comes with life, all in one place.

“With MobiPay, you can now pay your DStv accounts from the comfort of your home and we are in the process of introducing more and exciting services,” says Amos Shiyuka, the company’s Executive Director adding, “We are busy testing with most retailers as well as established institutions in Namibia, who will give us access to more people within the regions. MobiPay has adopted the strategy of setting up a strong and reputable Agent Network that will represent the company around Namibia with the aim of having enough representatives in various regions to register customers and offer the withdrawal/deposit services and in some cases - various retailers accept point-of-sale payments at their pay-points or tills as well.”

The adage, “necessity is the mother of all inventions” agrees with the theory of social construction of technology, which entails that technology is there to meet the needs of a society. So MobiPay’s facility, therefore caters for the elderly who can now receive their pensions and make withdrawals through mobile phones and enjoy the benefits brought about by globalisation through the use of ordinary, affordable and accessible information technology.

“Last year, we managed to cover around 50-60% of the country. We intend to increase our coverage this year so that the majority of Namibians can benefit from our services,” says Shiyuka.

To date, MobiPay has opened five branches in Oshakati, Walvis Bay and Windhoek and has more than 40 agents countrywide who include Woermann Brock, Pick n Pay, Spar and other small agents such as Amulida Enterprises in Otjiwarongo and Grootfontein areas.

They have also partnered with Nampost as one of the biggest agents.

Shiyuka says MobiPay services and products have been warmly welcomed because of its affordability and accessibility.

“The potential market is so huge. Segmenting markets and MobiPay services and features would seem a very feasible combination of telecommunications and the finance industry and be the foundation for a viable business model. This market has critical need for in-depth marketing so that the services and benefits can be understood by each and every citizen,” he adds.

As a result of this initiative, people of all walks of life have been accommodated and this has brought about what Marshall McLuhan calls ‘an extension of the five senses’ and people, especially those residing in the country’s remote areas are no longer limited by distance to visit banks as MobiPay allows them to do the transactions in the comfort of their homes. MobiPay also targets both the banked and the unbanked and parents have been relieved from the concern of their kids’ safety as they can now do some services like buying airtime as well as buying electricity units in their homes without having to send kids out in the dark.

According to Shiyuka, MobiPay’s business model is driven by huge volumes of subscribers at low costs and they have been busy putting up a few strategies in place, motivated by aggressive advertising and marketing tools in order to increase customers and transactions.

It has presented a competitive model of distribution strategy driven by choice of services and products, including diverse consumers from the unbanked, under-banked and banked market segments, that allows a rich variety of customer preference and technology cost parameters.

He says sensitivity around affordability and cost parameters shows how several limitations affect the competitive outcome. They have invested a substantial amount into educating the market and making sure that their existing and potential consumers understand the concept and its benefits. With their targeted market segments, they have been doing a lot of group promotions and advertising to make sure they carry the message further.

The company’s forecast for the coming years is to offer its services and products to all Namibians at an affordable rate and to steadily grow the company.

“In today’s rapidly changing and competitive microfinance industry, most institutions are looking hard at the potential benefits to be derived from Information and Communications Technology (ICT). This focus has taken on even greater urgency as institutions seek to meet the needs of the undeserved poor and struggle with the issues of sustainable rural finance and challenges of outreach.

“MobiPay has put out strategic plans in place to offer its services and products to all Namibians at affordable rates and we would like to grow the company steadily in the next five years,” concludes Shiyuka. PF