The month of July has been great for my work. A number of plans I made in the past month have been implemented and are yielding results. As Emerging Cooking Solutions (ECS) is going through a transformation in all aspects of the business, it is imperative that the Fintech department puts automated processes in place to ensure the smooth running of business. Payment reconciliation continues to be the big focus of the business and the right measures are necessary to achieve this.
Mobile money payment is the most effective and reliable form of payment for the pay-as-you-go solar businesses. The benefits far outweigh other forms, with the only challenge being the transaction charges. The Fintech department has been working tirelessly to ensure that one functioning mobile money account is set up before the end of the month.
Fortunately, an MTN mobile money merchant account has been fully set up and is now able to receive payments, which are then uploaded into the ECS payment platform (Angaza hub) seamlessly. This is a huge improvement from the manual system of receiving cash from customers, either through bank deposits or directly to the accounts department. Though the change is yet to be fully effective, it has been a big step for the company to achieve an almost accurate reconciliation of accounts at the end of the month.
There are a couple of other initiatives that are in the works that include enabling easy access to electronic money, creating awareness of ECS (Supamoto) bill payments, and making ECS agents/resellers mobile money agents. The above-mentioned initiatives have taken me into the field with the sales team in the last two weeks of this month. Together with the sales team, we have identified reliable retail mobile money agents who we are linking to our customers to provide prompt payment for our home energy systems. We have also identified a number of ECS sales agents who already double as money collectors who will be able effect the bill payment via mobile money to ECS.
I have visited the central and southern provinces this month. The main towns I have worked in include Chisamba, Mazabuka, Choma, Itezhi-tezhi, Niko, Pemba, and Nampundwe. The experience has been wonderful, as I have directly participated in the sales process, interacted with old and potential customers, and experienced work and life in rural communities in Zambia.
The next action is to ensure that the newly launched Zamtel Kwacha is added to the list of ECS merchant accounts, as we currently have only MTN and Airtel money. The plan is to have all the mobile money payment channels set up and integrated with the ECS (Supamoto) payment platform (Angaza hub). We expect this to be possible in the coming weeks.
In the area of IT, there have been many support initiatives to help the team function effectively. Fast and reliable internet has been a priority for the company, hence the installation of new wireless and cable devices. There is also a new ISP to complement the existing one. The next phase is to ensure the various teams are given regular IT trainings to bring them up to speed with the standards of the company.
The dry weather continues to be a challenge for me, especially with all the travel around the different provinces. Adapting to the food has, however, been very easy for me. The food turns out to be only a little different from Ghanaian dishes. Towns outside the capital are widely distanced from each other, which makes traveling very long. Nevertheless, Lusaka is a very cool and nice place with some of the most hospitable people I have met.
I am looking forward to a wonderful time ahead at ECS, where the business is already transforming communities in Zambia. I believe the company has assembled the right team to achieve its target. I would continue to emphasize that fellowships like the Landmark Development Initiative are well placed to change the fortunes of businesses on the African continent, by linking skilled labor to demand. The experience for me has been phenomenal, and I look forward more wonderful times ahead.
Dominic Adongo is a 2017 LDI Africa Fellow placed with Emerging Cooking Solutions in Zambia.