We speak to Jose Soares, Chief Marketing Officer, Zazoo speaks to us about the trends in the region ahead of VAS Africa 2015.
What is the future of digital services in Africa and what do you think are the top 3 major trends affecting your business in the region?
We believe that the following digital services will thrive in the coming years;
- Mobile payments
- Prepaid vending for utilities such as water and electricity
Whilst all of the above have their challenges, positive trends are emerging that will surely affect our business moving forward. Regarding Ecommerce, we are seeing financial inclusion (combined with mobile payments) ensure that models can be moved away from the age-old COD model, ensuring that ecommerce sites can become profitable.
In the mobile payments space, whilst the MNO’s are doing a good job of initiating the thinking around holding balance in a wallet, the spend portion of the discussion has always been a point of contention, but with bigger firms such as Visa and MasterCard entering these markets, interoperability will surely prevail soon – introduce an innovative mobile based solution on-top of this and you have a winner.
Whilst utility vending platforms and metering has traditionally been very expensive and therefor inhibitive for African municipalities, we are seeing services out of the cloud starting to change this, meaning that the adoption of same can now begin. This will allow vending platforms to include these products as sellable items ensuring that merchants can generate further sales and increase their monthly profits.
What products and services in the mobile money and digital payments sector are you most excited about at the moment?
We continue to be excited about the services that are pulling away from physical payments, plastic or cash, the ones that make the consumption of a service along with the payment seamless and feel somewhat natural. Being avid participants in this space, we are constantly looking to innovate in these areas, and when services much like UBER are becoming as widespread as they are, it means that we are in the right place, looking to satisfy what will only be a growing need. So the point is not to look for ways to pay for goods, but to create more services that people need, the payment mechanism will find its way there – the key, interoperability.
Any particular current or recent projects/success stories that you want to share?
We recently launched our VCpay service in South Africa, and have already formulated partnerships with Microsoft and UBER, with these types of collaborations we can effectively change the way online and CNP payments are perceived and performed.
What do you see as the main challenges for this industry and what is your vision for the industry?
Regulatory practices and interoperability continue to present challenges. With everyone rushing to occupy the “mobile payment” space, we are faced with a myriad of solutions, each quite fragmented and separate from the other – this inevitably causes confusion and leads to lower adoption. The regulatory industry is also struggling to keep up with the pace at which this market is moving and this of course presents its own challenges as service offerings need to be constantly updated and changed as the regulatory environment catches up with the offerings.
What are the biggest challenges in terms of connectivity and quality of services in the region and which technologies are most likely to resolve these issues?
Widespread connectivity particularly in rural areas continues to be a challenge. Whilst there are various players trying to improve this, such as Google, Facebook etc we don’t see this problem going away anytime soon which is why we believe we are very well positioned to play in this space as both our banking and mobile banking products work on and offline. With this said, it will remain very important for the infrastructure to be upgraded moving forward as it will ensure that further life-changing services can be launched and rolled out.
How are smartphones/tablets & cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in South Africa?
South Africa much like the rest of the world are constantly shifting their demand toward consuming information on the web. This means that the backbone infrastructures and connectivity need to be able to handle this, it becomes clearly evident in moments when these infrastructures are under their highest strain that they cannot cope. Load shedding is a prime example, as the lights go out, more people turn to hand held devices to access the web and entertain themselves. Cloud services are also becoming larger, bigger files, more data, greater bandwidth, infrastructures need to expand if they are to cope with the rapid growth in demand for these services.
What will be your message at the event?
Simplify the process, look to services that take advantage of existing processes and infrastructures. Bridge the gap between the service provider and the merchant, in a way that is effortless, intelligent, interoperable and secure. Cater for the old, whilst educating and exploring the new, innovate and disrupt the industry.
Jose Soares will be speaking in our day one panel on the convergence of mobile money and merchant payments with traditional payment systems.
VAS Africa will be taking place this 30 June – 1 July in Johannesburg, South Africa. For more information, or to register for VAS Africa, please visit: www.comworldseries.com/vasafrica