Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL), Chief Operating Officer (COO) Anthony Masunga has called on African industry players to invest in fast mobile data networks to enable faster and safer mobile commerce. Presenting on the topic, Mobile Commerce in Africa: Botswana Case Study, during the 4th annual Value Added Services (VAS) conference, Masunga argued that M-commerce is the future especially for countries like Botswana which have seen a phenomenal growth and uptake of mobile services.
The mobile market in Botswana is now sitting at more than 150 percent (dual sim market) in comparison with PC penetration of less than 20percent. Mobile population coverage is now sitting at more than 90percent thanks to intense competition in the market and the Government of Botswana’s investment in rural telephony through the rural telecommunications program (dubbed Nteletsa II).
The conference, held in Johannesburg, South Africa brought together over fifty African innovators and visionaries to share experiences and creativity as the world embraces the digital age. Masunga took the conference through the Botswana telecommunications market, M-commerce principles, M-commerce value chain and concluded by sharing his research findings and lessons from the Botswana market.
Conference delegates were generally impressed with progress made in the Botswana market regardless of the market size in comparison with other African markets. Panellists had to outline what the African consumer market wants in the digital age and give insights into new ways to monetise content and applications, analysis of M-commerce projects, innovation with mobile money, marketing and also the importance of mobile phones in driving the consumption of data.
Masunga said to meet demand and delight customers; mobile operators must be the central communication medium just like the traditional internet, allowing transactions with monetary value to be conducted via a mobile telecommunications network.
Masunga reasoned that for M-business to happen mobile networks as enablers must forge partnerships across the value chain and introduce mobile applications required to sell services and commodities. He said operators need to open networks to developers and partners.
A Case study for Botswana conducted by Mr Masunga in 2014 indicates 75percent of the respondents use cash and cheque for payment of monthly bills and that on average 70percent of the respondents spend between 15 to 45 minutes in bill payment queues.
Eight five percent of respondents agreed that mobile phones are easy to use with 75 percent saying they would use a facility such as M- Commerce as over the counter payment is time consuming, frustrating and adversely impacts productivity.
The commercial banking sector was also highlighted as having made significant inroads by taking the banking services to the banked and unbaked through mobile technology. He also observed that the Botswana Power Corporation (a national power utility) with its partners has also leveraged on mobile technology to push the purchase and dissemination of prepaid power. In the postal space, BotswanaPost has partnered with the three mobile operators and banks to also deliver services through mobile technology. His short to medium outlook of Botswana is that there will be repositioning in the Botswana Market were the mobile operators (or Public Telecommunications Operators) will take a central role as data communication channels (data pipes) on one hand.
On the other hand, more public utility companies will come on board by adopting new ways of transacting using technology and in the process enhance their operational efficiencies. More commercial banks will introduce M-banking and payment solutions and therefore use technology to increase product innovation and lower operational expenses.