Councils must tap into mobile money opportunities
Published On August 13, 2022 » 1473 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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LOCAL authorities in the country, especially the Lusaka City Council (LCC), have a task of reinventing themselves in order to harness emerging opportunities in their jurisdictions.
The management of mobile money agents and street vendors are cases in point that need innovative economic solutions that will serve to provide jobs especially to youth and also boost household incomes and revenues for councils.

•LUSAKA City Council police remove mobile mony booths form certain areas in Lusaka. Picture by MONEY FM ZAMBIA

This can also contribute to the country’s economy.
Last month, the Lusaka City Council (LCC), working in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, as well as other stakeholders, removed mobile money booths from certain areas to sanitise the city.
According to Local Government and Rural Development Minister Gary Nkombo, this was part of efforts meant to relocate the booths to a designated area which will create less challenges in terms of cleanliness and order in the Central Business District (CBD).
Mr Nkombo, who spoke on the Hot FM radio programme – Hot Seat – said the relocation of the mobile money booths from places such as Cairo Road, Cha Cha Cha Road and Freedom Way was conducted to keep the city clean.
He said this was part of a countrywide programme aimed at restoring sanity and order.
For Lusaka, this also involved the ongoing efforts to take street vendors to markets like Simon Mwewa Lane, BH and other markets that have been built in recent years to end street vending.
Mobile money infrastructure
At the 94th Zambia Agriculture and Commercial Show, Zambia Information and Communications Authority (ZICTA) director general Pethel Phiri said K169 billion was transacted through mobile money as of December 2021, with 20.2 million mobile cellular subscriptions recorded over the same period.
The K169 billion is a figure that all bank chief executive officers (CEOs) are interested in because what this means is that these transactions took place outside the banking system compared to previous years when such transactions were taking place within banks, making it possible for the banks to earn a profit.
This year, the number of transactions taking place outside the banking system is likely to shoot up and the banks are closely watching this because the banking system seems to be facing stiff competition owing to a leap in technology.
However, this should excite all the councils – like the LCC – because they stand to benefit from mobile money transactions if they get innovative.
Unfortunately, the local authorities seem to be unaware that the mobile money infrastructure has grown to a level where annual transactions are now worth billions of Kwacha.
With these transactions on the rise owing to the ease with which members of the public can send and receive money, including people in far-flung areas who lack access to banking services, mobile money has become a necessity that the economy cannot do without.
Therefore, the local authorities, especially in cities and towns where this platform has made the instant transmission of money possible, should look beyond just relocating mobile money booths for cleanliness and sanitation purpose.
They should devise elaborate business partnerships with mobile network service providers so that through registration and licensing of both the agents and the booths, they start earning a share of the transactions.
This will not only help the councils to raise more revenue, but it will also give them an opportunity to ensure that the booths are planned for and located in places which have the necessary sanitation and related services.
Additionally, this is yet another opportunity for the councils, in partnership with mobile network service providers, to complement Government efforts in creating jobs for young people who work as mobile money agents.
Street vendors
The same goes for street vending.
It seems to have become acceptable that street vendors, in this time and age when the United Party for National Development (UPND) is promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, are still considered as a nuisance that should be gotten rid of.
In Lusaka, the area on Freedom Way around Kulima Tower is ever congested with street vendors, coupled with unruly minibus drivers that make it impossible for motorists to drive peacefully.
Inasmuch as such areas provide fertile ground for breeding diseases, such as cholera, as well as petty crime, authorities should realise that the armies of street vendors are now part of a delicate value chain that helps to sustain suppliers of various items, especially farmers, in surrounding communities.
Both the traders in the markets and the street vendors provide demand to suppliers, especially of farm produce, which they later sell to members of the public.
If all the vendors were removed from this value chain, most of the farmers and other suppliers of various items would have challenges finding customers.
Therefore, as the local authorities plan, they should not only aim at getting rid of the street vendors, but see the vendors as a necessary evil that has a role to play.
This calls for innovation in the handling of street vendors who should be segmented and placed in areas where they should pay a levy and have access to basic sanitary facilities.
Besides levying these vendors, the councils should find innovative ways of supporting them and at the same time earning some revenue.
Ideas abound on how this can be done; a village banking model redesigned for vendors perhaps, among others.
Local authorities can even devise a finance scheme that could provide empowerment to the street vendors and market traders at a minimal fee.
A few years ago, some banks, such as Zanaco, Indo-Zambia Bank (IBZ) and Standard Chartered Bank came up with specific services meant for market traders.
Some of the banks even opened branches at or near markets like Chilenje and Soweto Market just to encourage the traders in markets to open bank accounts at amounts as minimal as K20.
This is an idea the local authorities can improve on to monetise the growing numbers of the street vendors and also encourage entrepreneurship.
The councils should take the cue from President Hakainde Hichilema who recently held a meeting with heads of quasi-Government institutions and statutory bodies where he discouraged the age-old habit of consumptive spending.
He said this culture has stifled growth, bred failure, indebtedness and created endless financial challenges in many of the Government institutions in the country.
The President said the quasi-Government institutions and statutory bodies have an obligation to improve the lives of the Zambian people through the services they provide.
He called on the heads of the institutions to explore ways to reduce the unnecessary expenditure and channel funds to areas that can be developed.
This same message should apply to the local authorities which lack innovation and have often failed to plan ahead because of being backward in the way they do things.
Local authorities must be creative in improving service delivery for the benefit of people, who include the street vendors, in their jurisdictions.
For example, Lusaka now has many ultra-modern shopping malls dotted around the city.
But most of these malls belong to foreign entities, and yet the LCC, which licenses the establishment of the same malls and collects rates for so many properties, cannot even provide adequate space for the street vendors in markets.
Therefore, there is urgent need for a paradigm shift to enable the councils realise that the mobile money infrastructure and the street vendors provide opportunities that can help change people’s lives for the better.
Exploring these opportunities can also grow incomes and revenue for both households and the local authorities alike.

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