The banking sector, as it is evidenced, is increasingly sharing the mobile network operators space, proving the finding by KPMG on its ‘Banking in Sub-Saharan (SSA) Africa’ series that “the advent of modern technology and other innovations have successfully enabled a handful of pioneers to provide banking services to a far wider income customer base than ever before.” In Botswana the numbers relating to mobile phone penetration build a rather compelling case to the local retail banks to tap into, precisely speaking a study by Fast Market Research titled “Botswana – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband – Market Insights and Statistics” released earlier in February cites that the country is among those with the highest mobile market penetration rates in Africa, estimated at 170 percent.
Barclays Bank of Botswana on Tuesday last week launched what it considers a “first and only exclusive mPOS” in Botswana. mPOS is an acronym for mobile point of sale, and according to the bank is an on-the-go card payment solution that processes transactions within cell phone network range, cited an advantage to businesses and entrepreneurs who do not have a fixed place of operation. The lending Director at Barclays Dineo Shaleshando mentioned in particular that the target market is businesses in transportation, catering and delivery sectors. The KPMG series mentions that the development of SSA banking sector is still to an extent constrained by the small size of national markets, which in the case of Botswana could not be further from the truth, however it is emerging that the provision of banking services need not be confined to the traditional methods of banking, as devices such as mobile phones continue to increase the reach of banking.
The device does not usher any groundbreaking features to card payments but it does, in contrast to its older counterpart, offer convenience of mobility given that it has been shrunk to half its size. The other notable difference is that it sends digital receipts to a customer’s phone in the form of an sms, and much like many digital and smart devices comes with a rechargeable battery.
The newly launched mPOS, which as was explained was taken through a testing phase as to rake through its teething problems before it could be introduced to the market. Barclays approached the illustrious businessman in the local transport sector, Seabelo Tlhaselo of Seabelo Express transport service to participate in the device’s pilot project. Tlhaselo shared a testimonial message on the experience of the mPOS, which he mentioned was brought to his attention last year. He discoursed the nature of the transport business, citing particularly the movements involved in it, to which he gave examples of the cross border routes taken by the Seabelo buses departing from Botswana to Johannesburg, South Africa and to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Seabelo pronounced the risk involved in carrying cash for such movements, which however he attested that such risk has been eliminated by the use of mPOS. “You can easily have no need to guard money,” he said. Seabelo also shared that the accessibility of the device is dependent on the coverage of mobile network which given the wide coverage of mobile network operators makes the device readily accessible. He however mentioned problems that were encountered in the use of the device which to date Barclays has sufficiently addressed.
Businesses and entrepreneurs interested in using the mPOS ca expect to be charged an initial installation fee of P293 following which a monthly rental fee of P120 on the use of the device will be charged by Barclays. mPOS currently operates on a dual sim connected through Mascom and Orange mobile network operators, with BeMobile lagging behind in inclusion as a partnership deal is yet to be concluded. Barclays settles the billing from Mascom and Orange on behalf of the merchants however it earns a fee on every payment processed. The fee ranges between 2 percent and 5 percent based on the turnover that the business makes. Given that accessibility depends on coverage of network, it means that without coverage mPOS will not work, however it is expected that the use of dual mobile networks will provide alternative coverage in the case of either one losing network coverage.