Last week, we learnt that Zamtel is looking to launch mobile money services by the end of the year. Why they have waited this long is anybody’s guess. Officially though, the company says they are not reactionary, and therefore needed to see the business sense first. Which is surprising because Mobile Money has largely proved itself on the continent. Unresolved matters of financial inclusion are everywhere you look on the continent, and in Zambia too. Maybe Zamtel has been looking to their local competition and not seeing much mobile money business to be excited about.
But maybe Zamtel should consider this: There’s only one other thing people do much more than they communicate. People pay for stuff. In fact, they pay to communicate. to move around (fuel, minibus fare), to eat, to sleep comfortably. List is endless. Payments are bigger than communication and fortunately for the mobile service providers, they are enabled by the very same network they already have.
Enabling voice, text, and internet communication alone, may still be a big deal for Zamtel right now but the future that will disrupt these is already here, eating into their revenue as we speak. They just need to look to the death blows WhatsApp is delivering to SMS; what Skype, Viber and Facebook VoIP Calls will do voice calls. Yes, the company may be in a great position where they also control a lot of infrastructure, but without providing any services atop it, they will really just be a dumb pipe.
And it’s not just payments that Zamtel needs to move on urgently. I’d go as far as recommending that they enter new arenas that their infrastructure and the reach it affords them allows. They could look into investing in the businesses of the future. MTN are not crazy to be investing in startups and incubators. Tigo in Rwanda are not crazy to be investing $xxxx into a startup incubator. They all realize the cheese is moving, and that if they don’t anticipate future disruption and prepare, they will have no place in that future.