Measuring Impact in Ghana Sarah Bartlett, M&E Manager, Esoko, CIRAD – March 2010
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At a press conference today, Zain announced the launch of its award-winning, enhanced payment service ZAP in Ghana. The service is set to compete for the custom of the Ghanaian “unbanked” with MTN’s Mobile Money.
The development of mobile payment mechanisms in the Ghanaian market for value-added mobile services, alongside with the evolution of the local market information platform Esoko, makes mobile commerce in Ghana an increasingly realistic prospect.
The mobile phone has become one of the most important pieces of equipment that has revolutionaised processes in the society, making people transact business and communicate in a friendly and more convenient way.
Not only have authorities predicted the continuous revolution in the sector, but they believe Africa, which was written off as one that could not realise the full benefit of the technology, will now be at the centre of the mobile phone revolution, using the device to facilitate trade and the settlement of values beyond its traditional use as a communication tool to which the device is put in many parts of the world.
Leading the mobile revolution in Africa and the Middle East is Zain Telecommunications which continues to use veritable market survey to design products and services on its platform to the benefit of the ordinary person and businesses.
The telecom service provider has introduced onto the Ghanaian market its award-winning mobile commerce (m-commerce) product, the Zap service, which is set to make business transactions on all platforms easier by enabling users to access funds from their bank accounts and pay utility bills using their mobile phones.
ZAP has been extensively reviewed and approved by industry experts across the world as an efficient way of doing transactions. The product is the reigning winner of the coveted award for Best Mobile Money for the Unbanked Service at the GSMA Global Mobile World Awards 2010.
The Country Manager of Zain, Mr Philip Sowah, explained that the service went beyond money transfer into enabling users of the service to effect payment of any kind be it a bill at a grocery, utility bills, pay-TV bills, school fees, or even to honour pledges and tithes at church.
“This service will enable people to transact business and make payments without resorting to cash,” Mr Sowah explained, adding that although the service would initially be available to Zain customers, it would later rope in other platforms.
Currently, Zain is working in partnership with three banks, namely Ecobank, Standard Chartered Bank and UBA to deploy the service with the hope that after the launch other banks would be roped in.
With its authentic ability to capture people in the informal sector, who would load cash on the service for transactions, the product would help in banking a lot more people in that sector, thus help in mopping up excess money in circulation, a condition necessary for checking inflation. Currently, only 80 per cent of the Ghanaian working population is unbanked. This means a teaming number of people in the informal economy remain unbanked.
“The unbanked will become banked under Zap and enable banks to have access to more customers,” Mr Sowah added, adding that the general economic and business benefits of ZAP were astounding and would further revolutionarise commerce in Ghana.
How it operates
Customers of the network will first have to register with the mobile provider before being able to access their Zap service. The customers can send money from their bank account to ZAP account or go to the nearest Zain dealer or Zap centre to deposit cash onto their Zap service to enable them to send money from ZAP to a bank account, send virtual money to friends and family, receive virtual money or withdraw cash.
Mr Sowah said “money can be redeemed from any ZAP outlet or Zain accredited shops all over the country.”
On another level, merchants and service providers who would be signed on would also have their Zap account which would facilitate a unique settlements system that would facilitate the exchange of goods and services to take place.
For instance, at the Accra Mall, all the big and small vendors would have the service which would allow customers to buy from say game supermarket and pay through the Zap service.
It can also work in informal economies such as at traditional markets in Ghana such as the Makola market in Accra, the Asafo market in Kumasi or the Techiman market in the Brong Ahafo Region.
For money transfer, the upper limit is GH¢600 a day, while transactions with merchants could go beyond that to bigger amounts, in an attempt to check fraudulent deals with the system, such as money laundering.
Besides the multi-faceted services it offers, Zap also promises convenient and a cost efficient way of transferring money; or for the payment of goods and services in the Ghanaian market.
Zain officials said there would be no need for any special subscriber identity module (SIM) card or customers to begin to enjoy the ZAP service. In addition, however, customers who would use ZAP would be allowed to keep their phone numbers confidential with the use of ‘nicknames’ to transfer money.
The service could also be used to top up airtime for the customer or for someone else.
The company stressed that since Zap operated in a ‘virtual’ world of transacting business without carrying cash, theft cases and armed robbery would be drastically reduced, citing building contractors as an example of a category that could “Zap” workers’ wages directly to their handsets without carrying sack loads of money.
The workers could later redeem the cash at the ZAP outlets doted all across the country, Mr Sowah explained.
The ZAP service is currently in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone.
Wageningen, 2 November 2009. During the CTA ICT Observatory 2009 we interviewed Mike Davies from Esoko, in Ghana. Esoko is a software platform licensed to facilitate the flow of market information between farmers, governments, researchers and other stakeholders involved in agriculture and rural development. It is used to share information on prices, offers, price of fertilizers etc. It is managed by the web, but delivered via mobile phones. Mark underlines the potential positive effects that Market Information Services such as Esoko can bring about, both in agriculture as well as in for other sectors. He then concludes talking about the difficulties he has encountered in this initiative, such as the lack of content available and the lack of right capacities to build and develop such software.
See more at observatory2009.cta.int/
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The visit of President Obama in Ghana has given an opportunity of the US administration to reach out to people all over the world via mobile technology. This is an exciting attempt at participatory government and inclusion of members of the public in policy-making via mobile technology. Even though the concept has existed among mGovernment practitioners and academics for quite a while now, its successful implementations are few and far between. I hope that the enthusiasm which Mr. Obama is able to harness wherever he appears will give prominance to the idea, and encourage polititians elsewhere to seek its replication.
by Mike Grenville
Fri, 10 Jul 2009
The US Department of State is offering highlights from the speech by President Obama in Ghana on Saturday 11th July by SMS.
Working with Clickatell the US Department of State is reaching out to citizens around the world by SMS during an important speech to be given by President Barack Obama tomorrow, July 11, 2009 from Accra, Ghana.
Anyone around the world can sign up to receive live speech highlights in English or French via SMS. In addition, enrolled participants can send their text message speech comments via their mobile phone back to the US Department of State, where selected responses will be posted online. President Obama will also answer selected questions directly by radio broadcast in Africa.
It will also be possible to send back comments to the Obama Speech SMS highlights – via standard 2-way mobile SMS reply with selected comments posted online: http://www.america.gov/ghana_comments.html
International/Non-US citizens can enroll now online at: http://www.america.gov/sms.html
In Africa sign up can be directly by mobile: To send a text message to President Obama from anywhere in Africa except Burundi, the Central African Republic and Togo, simply text ‘English’ or ‘French’ to +61418601934. If you do not receive a confirmation of your enrollment within 10 minutes, please send again to +45609910343. For Burundi and the Central African Republic, text ‘English’ or ‘French’ to +46737494514. For Togo, text ‘English’ or ‘French’ to +4915705000946 For Kenya use short code 5683; for Ghana use short code 1731; for Nigeria use short code 32969; and for South Africa use short code 31958.
Here is an interview with Mohammed Mounouni of SAND, Ghana recoreded on 19 March 2009. He reflects on the monitoring and impact evaluation of the use of mobile market information services such as the services TradeNet and Esoko implemented via the MISTOWA project. Mr. Mounouni hopes new developments in the Esoko platform will make farmer’s feedback easier and suggests they should not pay credit time when they do so. Mr. Mounouni emphasises the importance of fieldwork with African farmers, investigating their use of market information.
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Having researched invormation behaviour, I agree particularly strongly with this point. With the current surge in the development of mobile Intenet services I think it is essential that forthcoming ICT4D projects are needs-based and take into account information use. Otherwise, the development community is in danger of proliferating technology for its own sake.
In another interview available through the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) blog the software developer David McCann of Busylab, Ghana introduces the new Esoko platform which builds on the efforts dedicated to the implementation of the TradeNet Web based platform. The Esoko technology includes an SMS gateway with a centralised computing power in combination with an extendable mobile application.
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