Another great idea that may get drowned out by everyone not wanting to share….
Since last week, NMB bank has been advertising the introduction of their new NFC enabled Tap Card, which allows you to literally tap the card on an NFC enabled POS machine and have your payment processed instantaneously. This would save the hassle and time caused by your usual Ecocash and Bank Card lines and we’re sure everyone would prefer that. But as great as this product seemingly is, it faces the problem that a lot of other payment platforms in Zimbabwe face: Standardisation.
No one in this country needs to be introduced to our monetary situation, with our multi-currency system and a shortage of actual cash in hand for most people even if it’s bond notes. As such the past three years have been marked by a move to multiple cashless options, with bank cards of different kinds and Ecocash being the chief use cases. But as we can all see that didn’t really solve the problem of the lack of actual cash, and people always bring up scenarios like public transport when such discussions are brought up. And while multiple different banks ,mobile money platforms have all tried their hand at solving the gaps left in the cash crisis situation, none has ever reached utmost success because of a lack of standardization for these solutions. Making solutions like Kwenga, or NMB’s tap card a standard solution that all merchants, formal or informal feel they should have would cause a much larger difference or change in people’s cash crisis woes that could benefit the everyday person. This would mean for example, Kwenga wouldn’t have just been a Steward Bank based implementation, but a technology it could have even licensed to other banks, and have them contribute resources to a wider rollout along with negotiating deals for more traders to take it up. Unfortunately, the problem is every bank or financial institution in this country right now is trying to leverage base level technologies that can help the whole country in the long run as specialized features that remain largely exclusive to them for competitive advantage. It’s like imagining if Econet right now was the only mobile network you could make basic phone calls on, while Netone is the only one you could send texts on, and Telecel is the only one you could get data on. Perhaps the government needs to step in again like they did when it came to the Infrastructure sharing move from a few years ago. It’s seemingly the only way to get all these different camps to basically work together.
We actually think the problem is that every bank and financial institution is trying to create the next Ecocash with all these moves, and while we can understand their keen eye for an opportunity and knowing you find the largest of those in times of crisis, we have to think a lot of them are a little narrow minded about how they’re trying to utilise these opportunities. Even Ecocash itself really became a juggernaut once the cash crisis began, meaning a certain part of their success wasn’t even planned. What these companies all need to realise is that a long-term, mutually beneficial strategy that can solidify the foundation of their technologies is a much better play than a solo attempt at trying to change everything on your own and gaining all the profit.
To be fair, we can at least say NMB sort of left a hand out with the Tap Card, allowing it to be used by more than just NMB customers. In fact the card can be topped up with Ecocash, ZIPIT, KaGwenya and ZimSwitch enabled point of sales( hopefully they have an app or USSD portal in the works?). But considering they probably have to fund all the NFC POS machines that they’ll put in stores and in people’s hands, it’s going to be a miracle if you see these machines having a really wide role-out that will really benefit everyone. At best it will help a relatively small amount of people get smaller lines in supermarkets. But we do hope the card is successful and the role-out continues. And if NMB doesn’t partner with any other banks to use the same technology, perhaps those same competitors will implement their own NFC cards and we can benefit from that instead.
In the end though, this scramble and lack of standardisation will keep us running in circles as far using our cashless platforms is concerned. And products like NMB’s card will continue to be proof of that. But hey, you never know, maybe someone from NMB is reading this and thinks we may be on to something. Until then though, I’ll still have my three payment options so that I get the shortest lines in stores.