I get tired of mentioning that Ecocash came and changed things in Zimbabwe blah blah blah. I mean you can pay for basically everything now; groceries, rent, tuition fees and I’m guessing the more dramatic members of society are even paying bribes, for marijuana and for prostitutes via Ecocash. Last week was a particularly bad one with the seeming loss in value of bond notes and people trying to find ways to use Bond Notes less. At the end of the day when a service is good, it does grow out of control. So it really grinds my gears when it can’t pay for one thing I think would make mine and a lot of lives easier: Kombi Fares!
Cash has not been easy to get for the past few months in Zimbabwe and I don’t mean United States Dollars. Just simple cash, just coins – bond bloody coins! When bond notes came we didn’t even want them, the masses took to Facebook and Twitter and made noise, #hashtags were flying all over the place. Memes depleted our WhatsApp bundles as we downloaded, laughed and shared. The bond notes came anyway, things looked like they could have gotten better, just for a little while, then it all went to shit.
Zimbabweans had learnt the art of plastic money transactions, mobile money was the talk of the town. Ecocash/Telecash/OneWallet merchant signs were everywhere we needed them to be. Well, almost everywhere.
And the winner is…
Kombis and Mshikashika (pirate taxis) have been the last cog in our economy that is refusing to jump on the pay via Ecocash bandwagon. The weird thing is that when Ecocash initially came onto the market they tried to push it but introducing a pay-your-kombi-via-Ecocash facility. They didn’t just let you pay kombi fares via Ecocash – they paid $0.25 of your fare! I was in college at the time and $0.25 was equivalent to two packets of Jiggies( these really tasty palm-sized packets of chips where Spicy Tomato was the only real flavour).This was obviously because Ecocash made the assumption that it would be mostly used by people to make micropayments (who knew lobola would be one day be paid via Ecocash?)
25 cents off your kombi fare! if you pay your kombi fare with EcoCash from today till Nov 25, we’ll pay 25 cents for you!
— Econet Wireless (@econetzimbabwe) November 19, 2012
Why did it fail back then?
Process. Ecocash was still new and shortcodes were not a thing then. So it meant if you were going to make the payment you would need to dial *151*200# (Yes, it was before they shortened it to just *151#) and then start navigating through the menu until you had finished making the payment. These days it’s so easy as merchants display that shortcode that ensures that all you have to do is put in the pin. That’s not the only thing as there’s an innovation that will surely hit the market soon; Ecocash Ta! It’s already on the market but soon it’s convenience may just be something we all want to use.
Hwindi’s Cut. The relationship between kombi owners and their employees was a great factor back in 2012. For one, payments via Ecocash meant a potential loss in terms of their pick and drop monies (the money they get when someone doesn’t go the whole way and they pick up a replacement passenger) as the owner of the kombi would ensure it is linked to his account. Given this, most kombis would either not let the passengers know or they would outright refuse to take Ecocash. The scepticism we all had towards the product back then didn’t help either.
What will fight Ecocash in Kombis now?
Hwindi’s cut. Yeah, this is still an issue and it’s probably worse now as Zimbabweans are used to easy money. Plus they have to pay rank touts for getting people into a kombi they were going into already. Whenever I see a tout get paid for people who get into a kombi I think, “Wow, these guys must have somehow known that I only came to the rank to count kombis but their excellent sales pitch (including retractable seats, forced air conditioning in the form of broken windows and potential conductor crotch/ass in face) got me to come into the kombi.
Fuel has become an issue. This past weekend was a fuel nightmare as a good number of service stations seemed to be either running dry or asking for cash only payments and others even going as far as requesting US Dollars Only. This definitely does not make it easier to bring Ecocash to the kombi scene as getting fuel has been getting difficult when making a mobile money payment at the service station. It’s not just about finding a service station with fuel right now – you have to find one that accepts Ecocash.
How would it help?
If I could pay for my transport using Ecocash I wouldn’t be forced to constantly look for cash in the weirdest places. One day I’m flirting with the not-so-pretty young lady from OK supermarket and trying not to cringe at her awkward smile to having to buy overpriced earphones from the guy by the corner knowing full well they have a housefly’s life cycle. Other people have it worse as they have to manoeuvre cash-outs from agents who may ask for anything from 10% – 40% of the cash out value (this, according to Ecocash policy is illegal). Once this whole fuel debacle clears I hope we realize that things could be a lot easier than they are. After all the mission is to continuously improve. #kaizenYOU