This article deals with the success story of the Value added service of EVCPLUS (an electronic Voucher Card+ Petty Cash Mobile Wallet), its social impact and its future prospects starting with a short background information on Hormuud Telecom Somalia, the company that launched this innovative E-wallet.
Names speak volumes. Hormuud literally means "the leading one” in Somali language. With more than 5,000 shareholders and over 2 million subscribers, Hormuud Telecom, a Somalia’s dominant mobile phone operator, has, since its inception in 2002, operated and survived in one of the most difficult business environments in the world. Over the years, Hormuud has lost dozens of its employees, millions worth of property and of course thousands of its subscribers in the long-running Somali wars. Likewise, operating a telecommunication company in an environment such as Somalia is more costly, especially Power, anarchy and security costs, compared to the operations costs of telecoms in stable countries in terms of taxation.
15 years on, it has stayed true to its original mission of offering Somali people affordable, reliable and quality services of telecommunication. Today, Hormuud is the most incredible in the few business success stories in Somalia and of all telecom network operators in Somalia, it is by far the most innovative telecom in entrepreneurial spirit.
Hormuud excels in entrepreneurship and over the years, a range of business ventures have been the brainchild of Hormuud as it has built business enterprises in almost all the economic sectors in Somali economy, being pioneer in many of them. These businesses range from remittance through banking to energy and real estate. One of its latest great innovations is EVCPLUS which is a petty cash mobile phone-based system for person-to-person payments.
Description and Development of EVCPLUS
With the ease at which money can move around, Mobile phones have widely become central to social payments and finances throughout Somalia out of necessity. The major underlying reason for the success of EVCPLUS is the environment of Somalia. The EVCPLUS service is the most convenient form of money solution as it suits both Somali culture and situation as well as the socio-economic context of Somali people. As the EVCPLUS is to do more with social responsibility than a market-driven approach of business, it transcends the banking payment service. It is where Hormuud Telecom business integrates with its social responsibility in a unique convergence of financial returns and social impact. There is about 80 percent uptake of the service. It has particularly revolutionized cash flow in Somalia. In Short, EVCPLUS is a financial inclusion from the grass roots up. It is offered for free to the unbanked ordinary Somalis.
Ahmadey is a Somali Youngman. He lives in Waberi district in Mogadishu. Ahmedey makes a living by pushing wheelbarrow in Bakara Market in Mogadishu. He helps shoppers and carries the things they buy by tucking them into his wheelbarrow. Ahmedei earns about $ 4 dollars per day out of this wheelbarrow pushing business (popularly known "gari-ga’anle” in Somalia. Last Thursday, as Ahmedey was doing his normal business at the market, his wife called him informing him that their 6-month old daughter has developed an acute diarrhea. She further said that she suspected the baby was dehydrating and needed to see a doctor. All Ahmedey did was he sent $ 3 via EVCPLUS to his wife. Upon receiving the money, she hired a Bajaj (tuk tuk) and immediately rushed the baby to Benadir Hospital.For Amedey, Using EVCPLUS service means to him owning more than a bank account by saying, "the wealthy have bank accounts, and we have EVCPLUS accounts, ours is faster and more convenient” adding that "EVCPLUS is my life; it saves my life; it saves my time; it saves my money; and it saves my family”.
The development of EVCPLUS as a value added service (VAS) has transformed the lives of many Somalis and has created lasting value for Hormuud Telecom. It is an Access to financial inclusion services via mobile phones. Launched by Hormuud Telecom Somalia INC in 2011, EVCPLUS is a mobile phone based petty cash, PIN secured SMS text message for free. It is a solution through which Hormuud GSM subscribers can send and receive money and airtime from and to their friends, families and business colleagues with ease. It is extremely simple to sign up for a built-in platform in the SIM. It is secure and conveniently reliable.
It is a PLUS or just a step forward from the Hormuud’s E-voucher Recharge which is an electronic means by which customers could recharge their mobile prepaid with convenience as an alternative to the traditional Scratch Cards. Being an E-VOUCHER PLUS, EVCPLUS has brought extra handiness of allowing the customers to buy airtime for their phones or someone else by using EVCPLUS menu. The service has actually given a competitive edge to Hormuud as it has encouraged the use of Hormuud SIM cards.
What initially began as a mobile-based platform developed for purchasing airtime, EVCPLUS has turned out to be in high demand on the Somalia market as a transactional and store of value platform. However, EVCPLUS is in no way a commercial mobile payment; it is a mere free mobile wallet initially designed for purchasing airtime within the phone. As it is at present, it is more about social payment and sharing the cost of basic things of life such as airtime, bus fare and meal, than being commercial mobile payment and transfer.
Registering for EVCPLUS account is totally free for the limit of $ 150. Since it is a petty cash, there is no need for Customer Due Diligence (CDD) or Know Your Customer (KYC). This exercise is done at the registration for DEEQTOON. All Hormuud SIM cards have the EVCPLUS menu. All you are required is to activate the EVCPLUS menu and follow the instructions therein to create the secret 4-digit PIN to access your ECVPLUS account when you need to send or withdraw money from your account.
Before the launch of E-Voucher, Hormuud customers had to go to its outlets/shops to top up by buying scratch cards. Then, Hormuud developed the E-Voucher platform through which its customers could buy airtime. As an extra solution, EVCPLUS was launched to allow the customers own an e-money petty cash wallet in which they receive money, keep it or use it for paying small goods and services or top-ups.
As for Mobile Money Transfer and commercial Service, Hormuud has expanded the EVCPLUS to Mobile Wallet named "DEEQTOON” which is a Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) solution. The service starts off where the EVCPLUS left. Hormuud launched the service in collaboration with SALAAM SOMALI BANK. It is a fully-fledged KYC/CDD compliant that allows customers to access their Bank accounts through mobile money transfer for withdrawal and deposit of bigger amounts at anytime anywhere in Somalia.
Mobile phone owners with Hormuud SIM cards can use this secure platform which uses simple, tailored menus to send and receive money through PIN locked messages.The cash-in Cash-out operation of the service is monitored and captured by the EVCPLUS system. Hormuud operates sufficient outlet networks to reach its subscriber base for facilitating cash-in cash-out services. EVCPLUS platform uses only US dollars; nevertheless, customers can take Somali shillings to currency exchangers and get the equivalent amount in US dollars in their EVC wallet.
Who Uses EVCPLUS?
EVCPLUS service is a value added service (VAS) basically designed for the poor, unbanked and rural populations in Somalia. It is more about Social Responsibility than Business. As poor people need different financial services, the service is a tailor made for them. Customers can load money onto their phoned at Hormuud outlets. Then they can text money through EVCPLUS system. EVCPLUS is not a separate business from Hormuud’s GSM business. It is not a business model that focuses on revenue generating. It is not to the level of the merchant-based SAHAL and Telesom’s ZAAD in Puntland and Somaliland respectively or the merchant/agent-based Safaricom’s M-Pesa in Kenya. EVCPLUS does not have corporate clients, merchants or agents as it is not commercial. It is a person to person petty cash transaction
EVCPLUS is designed with limits on how much money can the user transact or store in his/her mobile wallet. The Cash-in, cash-out and Person to Person transfers are limited to $ 150-300 USD per transaction. There are no merchants or agents of EVCPLUS who have higher limits. Therefore, the possibility of exploiting it for terrorist financing or money laundering purpose is remote. Some people might think that the money held in the EVCPLUS is in risk. As a matter of fact, this petty cash-based system is a tiny portion of the huge property of Hormuud capital; what is more, the money remains the property of the EVCPLUS users and survives intact for any eventuality. Any Skepticism about EVCPLUS is often bred from lack of information about how EVCPLUS works or spread by some business rivalries.
Throughout the five years the EVCPLUS has been in operation, there has never been a single reported fraud or significant one on the network except for con tricks/scams that at times take place among some customers. There can be of course some sort of risk involved if customers are not careful enough in using the EVCPLUS service while transacting, for example, sending money to a wrong person. They must keep their PIN secret. The customer can change his/her PIN as often as they see it fit.
The con trick happens when a customer receives a false text message confirming that money has been moved into his/her EVCPLUS account from an another customer’s account most likely followed by a phone call from the fraudster claiming that he/she has sent money by mistake. To avoid or mitigate such risk, Hormuud staffs instruct customers to always check their balances before they send money back. Checking a balance is so easy that the customer does not need to undergo financial literacy about it.
Great BENEFITS OF USING EVC PLUS:
Since its inception in 2011, EVCPLUS has attracted all Hormuud GSM holders and has been a great success with a lot of benefits to the ordinary Somalis; below are some outstanding Socio-economic benefits the service has brought:
- EVCPLUS service works with all mobile phone models; a customer does not have to own an expensive smart phone to get EVCPLUS service as Hormuud SIM Cards with their EVCPLUS work in all phone models
- The EVCPLUS service has greatly contributed to security for the ordinary Somalis in the sense that "no more cash carrying and no more mugging and robbing” as it provides a secure and convenient alternative with the unbanked poor to carrying cash.
- EVCPLUS gives Hormuud a significant competitive edge in retaining its customers
- EVCPLUS functions as a petty cash account without charges or fees. Thus it has driven growth and development in the country by improving lives for Somalis.
- EVCPLUS provides a mechanism through which financial inclusion is delivered to the poor and the unbanked.
- The service brings unbanked customers to the financial inclusion. Transferring money through EVCPLUS is as easy as sending a text message
- EVCPLUS service has increased economic activities by digitizing the money and hence reducing the risk of the cash getting lost or stolen.
- As a cash replacement, EVCPLUS is an e-wallet in which customers can keep their petty cash money.
- EVCPLUS service is accessible 24/7 as a timely and secure method of transaction where money can be sent and received anytime, anywhere free of charge.
- The service is the best response to the need of moving money around the country.
- The EVCLPUS service has taken the nascent banking industry in Somalia to a mobile phone platform.
In conclusion, the EVCPLUS is a petty cash system that provides a solution of electronic voucher card and petty cash for social payments to Hormuud customers within their phones. As a Petty Cash wallet, the service has created a financial inclusion for the poor and the unbanked, consequently improving the banking industry and encouraging cashless society.
The business community and merchants have not been left in the cold. For commercial purpose, Hormuud has developed DEEQTOON system as a mobile money transfer (MMT). The service is linked with SALAAM SOMALI BANK and allows the customers to access their accounts via their phones.
Hassanweli Moallim K EMAIL: [email protected]