Earlier this month, ZOONA announced their newest Managing Director, Miss Misozi Mkandawire who has made MD at only 27 years old!! Such an amazing feat for such a young lady but on speaking to her, its easy to see how determined she is. Having invested her own money to open her first booth on Cairo Road in 2011, she has managed to grow her business to 27 outlets which employ over 40 people! Most inspiring about this young lady and ZOONA as a company is their determination to help the community, especially women, succeed in the same manner that she has.
This has a much higher impact than we may notice at first sight with a lot of people set to benefit.
To start with we need to understand the ZOONA model. In an attempt to fill the gap in the market for individuals who did not have traditional banking and financial facilities, ZOONA came on the scene to try and provide an alternative way to transfer money via mobile in an accessible way as possible.
The company has made it possible for people with an entrepreneurial spirit, drive and determination to build and run their own small businesses. They provide these entrepreneurs with the technology, capital, and business support to start their own business as ZOONA agents. This encourages pro activeness in the country. Indeed, being an entrepreneur is not limited to people who wear suits and run an office somewhere.
ZOONA has also diversified their services to include much more than money transfer. You can carry out bill payments and bulk payments of up to 500 people. Their newest product is the Sunga Payments which allows people to save for things like school fees. Their innovative technology has allowed people with no access to bank accounts to have savings accounts. The joys of technology!!
This has a direct impact on society and the economy. I’m sure it’s easy to spot a ZOONA booth at every corner. This means money is circulating in the economy. However, the largest impact may be the creation of hundreds of not thousands of entrepreneurs and even more jobs as each ZOONA agent usually has an employee. This is creating a huge chance for people to step up and create their own wealth especially those in the rural areas who are ZOONA’s primary market.
As a result, we have more people being able to educate their children which can be seen in the stories of existing agents. You also have more people being able to pay bills and taxes which feeds directly into the economy. Furthermore, we see people improving their standards of living. It’s a wonderful ripple effect giving opportunity to people that they may not necessarily have had before while providing a service to people who may not have had access to similar services.
The announcement by the mayor of Lusaka to remove these small “tu Ntembas” which included the ZOONA stands had threatened to disrupt the development in this area. However, the recent announcement to not take action until a place for the vendors is found brings some solace to the thousands of traders making a living through these stands. Even more concerning especially for ZOONA is that if the decision is made to move all vendors to one area, the appeal of having multiple ZOONA booths and different places which increases the ease of access to the service would cease.
We, however, are optimistic that all these concerns will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made.
ZOONA is currently in 3 countries namely, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi and they have plans to expand into Congo DR soon showing just how much demand there is for this product in sub-Saharan Africa where a majority of the population have difficulties accessing traditional financial services. It is this very fact that traditional brick and mortar financial institutions are looking very keenly at what is happening in this Fintech’s space. ZOONA’s growth trajectory in areas that traditional banks would want to be dominant in, is testament to the disruptive nature of their business model. They have managed to get millions of people to participate in the financial system where traditional banks have failed. The potential for them is the possibility of them being considered a financial institution of choice.
The Central Bank will have to keep close watch over developments in this space. As it attempts to try and get more people to participate in the financial system, it is disruptive technologies such as the one deployed by ZOONA that may be the answer to get all Zambians financially involved. Furthermore, from the perspective of the ZRA, this may also help unlock the ability to widen the tax blanket even further as one of the main reasons why it has been so difficult is because multitudes are far from the financial system.