Mascom, Canadian firm partner in Mobile money
Telepin Software has announced that it has clinched a deal to power the mobile financial services for Mascom Wireless Botswana. Telepin was selected to migrate from the incumbent provider to deliver the next wave of digital services in Botswana.
In its press release, the Canadian based financial technology (Fintech) firm says that Botswana's mobile penetration is the highest in the world at 176% and with Mascom Wireless having the dominant share of the market, the partnership could unlock many opportunities in the digital sphere, particularly in the payments system. The Canadian firm says opportunities exist given that the country's financial sector is mostly informal with 97% of businesses transacting with customers via cash.
“Mascom's partnership with Telepin accelerates and increases the availability of mobile money services for the country's citizens, while positioning banks, payment services providers, and online service providers to participate and succeed in an expanding mobile money ecosystem,” Telepin announced in a press statement.
Telepin powers over 40 active Mobile Financial Services platforms with tier one mobile operators around the world. Telepin's unique software and services help mobile operators deliver robust financial services offerings to their subscriber and merchant customers. According to the company, their software plugs seamlessly into existing mobile infrastructure, leveraging the investments already made in charging systems, replenishment systems, and value added service delivery platforms. Telepin is currently enabling over 45M digital wallets across all their customer networks processing over 50 million transactions per day.
The deal to completely takeover and power Mascom’s mobile financial services is a nod of confidence to Telepin Software which has already been working with Mascom in their mobile money transfer product. The Mascom flagship mobile money offering MyZaka provides Mascom customers a convenient and secure way to send, receive, buy and pay using their mobile phones anywhere in Botswana. Consumers can use the service to buy prepaid electricity, pay DSTV subscriptions, pay Mascom post-paid bills, send and receive money within Botswana, and purchase airtime. The existing MyZaka service includes a full stack deployment of the best in class software from Telepin Software.
Telepin says the deployment of MyZaka was a game changer in the market at a time where banks were the only ones expanding their digital channels through mobile banking. MyZaka has proven to be popular, especially amongst the unbanked who have no access to fast and secure mobile money transfers. MyZaka already supports a large percentage of active consumers and agents throughout the country.
Vincent Kadar, President of Telepin says "After an extensive process we are pleased to have been selected by Mascom and we value the trusting relationships we continue to build with our customers globally. We look forward to supporting Mascom and its customers with the world's most open, reliable, and innovative system, allowing Mascom to focus on building the digital ecosystem that will drive their next wave of growth."
Mascom- like other mobile operators- is evolving from the traditional ways of making money by shifting focus to expand its digital ecosystem. Research has shown that revenues from voice calls and short message text (SMS) are falling as consumers prefer to use internet powered applications which allows them to chat, voice call and video call using their smart phones. Mobile operators have tapped on another stream of revenues by offering data plans and bundles to meet the high demand for data services.
Mascom was licensed on February 17th 1998 as one of the two companies to establish, maintain and operate a GSM Mobile network in Botswana. The Mascom Network was launched five weeks after licensing, establishing and has been the market leader since.
Mascom has maintained the tradition and introduced cutting edge innovative products and services.
In 2007, Mascom led the introduction of GPRS/EDGE network coverage that spans 95% of the population. Mascom was the first mobile operator to launch 3G/HSDPA covering the cities of Gaborone in 2008 and Francistown in 2009. In June 2012, Mascom announced the aggressive expansion of 3.5G technology, which upon completion will see close to 80% of Botswana’s population enjoying the benefits of super-fast broadband access, with speeds of up to 21 Mbps. Concurrent to the 3.5G deployment, the 2.5G network was also upgraded to increase capacity by over 50%.
At the same time Mascom launched the 4G LTE pilot project which positioned Mascom among the first in the SADC region to announce the advanced technology. In September this year, Mascom launched an online portal called Tsena, a multi-platform news and information on Botswana, created to tell “Botswana’s stories about Batswana, by Batswana for the world”. Mascom says through the platform, the company aims to guide Botswana’s digital information, informing, connecting and entertaining users with search, communications, and digital content products and about Botswana. The service is free for mascom users.
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.