As the early bird in mobile phone-based system, Orange Botswana transacts huge sums of money through its Orange Money service.
According to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame, Orange Money’s average yearly transaction since its inception is P4.5 billion. Mascom Botswana’s My Zaka is a distant second with P295.8 million while the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation’s Smega is an even more distant third at P50 million.
This information comes courtesy of a parliamentary question asked of the minister by Mahalapye West MP, David Tshere, whose main interest was on what happens when a customer who subscribes to any one of these services dies. In response, Serame detailed a process that beneficiaries follow to redeem the money. The latter submit the death certificate and proof of authority to claim from a court of law or any other authorised party. Once the claim is processed, the account is closed.
However, if no information is received and no one comes forward to claim the money within 12 months, the account is managed under the dormant account process as outlined in the Electronic Payment Services Regulations, which were promulgated in 2019. A dormant account is any financial account that has not posted any activity such as deposits, withdrawals or transfers for a stated period of time – which is 12 months in the case of the aforementioned Regulations. An account can be dormant for various reasons, including death of the account holder.
Serame said that Regulation 29(5) says that where there is no request for a reactivation of a dormant account, the mobile money service provider shall transfer all funds held in the dormant account to a separate account held with a commercial bank. Such funds shall be kept for a period of not less than three years to allow for the possibility of a claim being made. If such funds are unclaimed after three years, the mobile money service provider is required to transfer the funds (and contact information of the account holder) to the Abandoned Funds Account held with the Bank of Botswana (BoB).
Serame said that since the Regulations were promulgated in 2019, none of the mobile money accounts has been declared dormant, meaning that no such funds have been transferred to BoB. She revealed that the total value of dormant accounts across all mobile money service providers as at December 2021 was P3.57 million. She broke down that figure as follows: P2.1 million for Orange Money, P1.4 million My Zaka and P50 000 for Smega.
Tshere had raised concerned that those surviving the deceased typically jump through hoops to claim the money, something the minister said she was unaware of. She added that service providers are “encouraged” to provide customer education in order that there is no confusion about what should be done. Additionally, BoB publishes information on declared dormant accounts that have been transferred to the Abandoned Funds Account in local newspapers, three years following the dormancy of the account.
The MP expressed dissatisfaction with the process the minister outlined, saying that it was cumbersome, causing some to give up along the way. He proposed a law in terms of which account holders would nominate a beneficiary in the event of their death. While not closing off the possibility of such law, Serame said the issues could actually be resolved administratively.