For some months now, I have been curious as to why Malawi was being left behind in the mobile money revolution that is transforming lives of thousands and thousands of poor people in the rural areas of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in East Africa. Some folks told me that Zain wanted to introduce their Zap service in Malawi but they were encountering some regulatory hurdles from the authorities. But all that is now history because Zain have announced the expansion of the Zap service to Niger, Sierra Leone and Malawi.
Dr. Saad Al Barrak, Zain Group CEO is quoted as saying
The expansion of this revolutionary mobile commerce service to Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone is an extremely important step in pushing the boundaries of mobile communications. We are proud to play a role in improving people’s lives by giving 150 million people access to effective and efficient financial services, fulfilling our brand promise of ‘A wonderful world’.
We already saw impact Zap has made the economies of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda,”added Dr. Al Barrak. “We are confident that we will see a similar impact in Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone, where formal banking services are largely restricted to urban hubs. Together with our financial partners, we have ensured that Zap mobile commerce services meet all the required in-country banking regulations as stipulated by the respective Central Banks.
Zain customers in Malawi will now be able to use their mobile phone to:
- Withdraw cash or pay for goods and services, school fees and utility bills, including electricity and water.
- Receive money from or send money to friends and family.
- Send and receive money to their bank accounts.
- Top-up their or someone else’s airtime.
- Manage their bank accounts
Currently, Zain cooperates with the National Bank of Malawi and NBS Bank in Malawi. I am sure other banks will join the bandwagon in the near future, otherwise they will find competition difficult. I can also see TNM rolling out their own mobile money service in due course, otherwise they will lose their customers to Zain because Zap services are only available within the Zain network.
The earlier TNM launches its own mobile money service the better, as it will help to ensure that Zain Zap does not become a monopoly in Malawi. After all, Zain Zap competes with Safaricom’s M-PESA in Kenya; MTN Mobile Money in Uganda; and Vodacom’s M-PESA in neighboring Tanzania.
When I first heard about mobile money services, one thing that bothered me was the need for original identification documents in order to register as a client. I was kind of worried because in Malawi we do not have national IDs as yet; very few people have passports and driving licences.
But I am thrilled by the fact that the Zap service in Tanzania allows prospective clients to use voter registration cards, recommendation from village chairpersons, employee IDs, pension cards for identification. I am pretty sure that the same will be used in Malawi.
Many people in Malawi do not have bank accounts. Zain Zap will bring genuine and immediate benefits, by helping them to carry out the kind of daily transactions and remittances that some of us usually take for granted, or by providing financial tools to help improve their small businesses or even to set up new ones.
The other good thing is that unlike conventional banks, which are characterized by lots of hidden charges, Zap is transaction based; you are not charged for anything other than the transactions you perform. Furthermore, the minimum amount that you can have in your ZAP account is basically 0 tambala.