Vodacom Tanzania organized the M-Pesa Innovation Forum, the platform for Tanzania technology innovators and entrepreneurs to meet with the M-Pesa team to explore the opportunities that comes with the product and how the innovators can make the most it.
The forum was organized by the M-Pesa Tanzania technical and business team whereby they provided opportunities for technology innovators to ask random questions about the challenges they get when it comes to trying to innovate around the product. The biggest question was, when will the API be readily available for developers to integrate different payment systems with M-Pesa platforms ?
M-Pesa Tanzania is the second largest mobile payment system in the world after Safaricom which has more than 7 million active subscribers and more than 30,000 merchants all over the country. It is the largest mobile payments service provider in the country. Currently they are connected to almost 500 businesses and have working partnerships with 30 commercial banks in Tanzania. The company has 85,000 M-Pesa agents networks nationwide. This is what the Tanzania innovators and technology entrepreneurs are looking to tap into. They are looking to get into the value chain of the business which contributes to 37.5 percent of Tanzania’s GDP.
As the forum went on, most of the developers in the room were waiting for one thing, the link for the API so as to access it. That, unfortunately was not the case, as the Vodacom team was keen to explain about the API not just in the technical perspective but in both business and regulators perspectives. From the team the issues was not just to be able to access the API and be able to configure it with your product or service but rather to understand the business viability of your product first and what does the regulators (Central Bank) say about it.
Mr. Tulisindo Rashid, M-Commerce Solutions Architect Manager explained their new updated Consumer to Business (C2B) platform which allows more flexibility. For example, in the new API, money is not deducted until the service has been delivered hence cutting down customer complaints to a large extent. He also explained that the API can be integrated with different platforms to allow users to do their payments directly using their M-Pesa accounts, for example the API can be integrated with School Management Systems and allow parents to pay directly into the collection account of the platform.
There were 90 minutes of a technical session where the head of technology of Vodacom Tanzania, explained to the developers about the API and how they can integrate it with their platforms. The session was followed by a number of technical questions from the developers who attended the session. The head of technology of Vodacom insisted that, the priority for Vodacom is reliability and security when it comes to integrating with any external systems, hence developers should make sure they invest time to work on that before dropping by Vodacom’s office looking to get connected.
Finally the moment everyone was waiting for, Vodacom provided the procedure on how someone can access their API and start to do business with them. The business team provided a few simple steps on how someone can register and become their partner. These steps include:
You return the form with your company registration documents
If everything goes well you sign the contract with Vodacom Tanzania, and lastly;
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) and you are set to work with M-Pesa.
The M-Pesa Tanzania Product Manager, Mr. Polycarp Ndekana provided further explanations about having some challenges with regulation issues to some of the business models, which is outside Vodacom’s jurisdiction since it is being set by the Central Bank of Tanzania.
Vodacom also explained their new hosting solution – Vodacom cloud for companies that are looking to host through them. According to the service lead, the service is a new service and it is still at a preliminary stage. More information will be available in the near future.
Is this the new chapter we were looking for? The answer is yes, the ecosystem needs this kind of collaboration between the corporate world and the innovators in the ecosystem, and Vodacom has just shown how it is done. We are expecting other MNOs to do the same. New innovations in the mobile industry will not come from their locked office doors but rather will come from young talented innovators available from the innovation spaces and tech startups companies where the urge to innovate is high compared to the big companies. They might not be able to replace the R&D departments but for sure they will bring the desired innovations.