South Africa’s leading operator Vodacom has announced a full overhaul of its m-pesa mobile money offering for its home market, admitting the service has not “enjoyed the overwhelming uptake seen in markets like Kenya and Tanzania”.
Vodacom said it is relaunching m-pesa for the South African market following a comprehensive study by external experts to establish the “factors which have held the service back in South Africa”; with the new offering focusing on distribution, registration, functionality, and loyalty.
“When we first launched m-pesa in 2010 we had high hopes that it would have the same kind of transformational impact seen in Kenya. We wanted to change the way South Africans handle money for the better,” said Shameel Joosub, group chief executive officer (CEO) of Vodacom.
“Each country has its own unique needs and challenges, and it has been a learning process getting to understand exactly what will and what won’t work in South Africa,” he said.
“We’ve taken the experience and knowledge gained from the past four years and have used this as the basis for a comprehensive redesign of m-pesa for the South African market.”
The new distribution model sees Vodacom roll out the redesigned m-pesa to 8,000 agents and both informal and official outlets, with the number of agents to be expanded to 30,000 by the end of the year.
“It’s not good enough to have an agent at the nearest big town or at a handful of big retail outlets. Kenya and Tanzania taught us that if you need to take a taxi to use the service, it will fail. Instead, you need to have agents where people live and work,” the CEO said.
Vodacom said it has also addressed ease of registration issues, with customers now able to register via their mobile phones using their name and ID number, as opposed to the old system required customers to register in person with their ID document at a limited number of outlets.
New functionalities have also been introduced, such as a voucher system for uploading cash to m-pesa enabling customers to convert money to mobile money in a similar manner to topping up their phone credit; while a chip and pin protected Visa m-pesa card is also to launch.
“While distribution and registration are key enabling factors, the heart of the revised m-pesa is the functionality. We’re excited to be working with two key new partners, Bidvest Bank and Visa, whose skills and expertise have allowed us to add entirely new functionality to m-pesa that addresses the specific needs of the South African market,” Josuub said.
Finally, the operator said the new m-pesa will directly reward loyalty and usage by customers, in the form of airtime and other offers intended to drive use. The initial rewards will include doubled airtime when airtime is purchased via m-pesa, as well as free airtime for activating the m-pesa Visa card.
“M-pesa has the potential to transform how South Africans manage money. We’ve worked hard to learn from our experience with the service so far, and have come back with something that we think is truly compelling,” said Joosub.
“We’re looking forward to the day that South Africa is held up as yet another example of where m-pesa has changed the face of banking, unlocking the power of mobile technology to make people’s lives easier.”