A quick Google Play Store search for the keyword Zimbabwe will give us a results page with 250 apps. Going through the majority of the apps, we can see that they are definitely made for Zimbabweans by Zimbo devs. Applying my complex mobile app analysis algorithm (I manually checked each app) I came up with the following numbers concerning these 250 apps:
- ~30 of these apps would benefit from a mobile subscription / pay to download business model,
- of these 30 apps, 5 have over 100,000 downloads, another 5 have crossed 50,000 downloads and 10 more have gained the 10,000 downloads badge.
This gives us a rough lower estimate total of 850,000 total downloads for these 30 apps. Now, let us say a generous 30% of the downloads would be willing and afford to pay the amount of 1 loaf of bread to subscribe to use these apps. We have more than 200,000 possible payments to be processed. Now our question becomes, Where are the mobile payment platforms and why are they not helping Zimbo devs take all this money from the masses. The simple answer is laziness, ignorance and lack of innovation from these companies run by old madalas.
Any dev worth their salt probably heard about the Epic Games/Fortnite/Google Play/iStore payments fiasco. The tl;dr is Epic Games feels ripped off giving Google and Apple 30% of their app revenue and decided to integrate their own payment solution into the apps. As we know from the monopolistic big tech giants, this is a big no no and Fornite was quickly taken down from the App stores.
The same applies for any app that wishes to sell in-app subscriptions, game lives etc. People often misunderstand this as meaning you can’t take payments in apps for any service. This is not the case. For example, if Pizza Inn has an Android app, they can have you pay for your orders via EcoCash or PayNow or whatever other payment method they wish to use. But if you are to have an app that needs users to subscribe to get access to notes, quizzes etc, then you must use Google Pay because they want to take their 30%.
To put this 30% into perspective, Candy Crush reports annual revenues of $68 million. 30% of that is a whooping $20 million dollars that Google and Apple take from a small company. How is that not daylight extortion?
In Zimbabwe, we only have 3 mobile money payment solutions worth talking about.
EcoCash has so much potential. With the right management and innovation, the platform would be taking a cut from ~70% of all transactions made in the country. The problem is the people who run the platform have blinkers and only see the carrots directly in front of them. To this day, I fail to comprehend how they failed to scoop up the public transport environment with a payment solution for commuters.
The year is 2020 and the largest company in the country has a mobile payment platform that does not have a publicly available API for developers. This is nothing but pure laziness from the entire EcoCash team. EcoCash does have an API. It is the one used when you pay for data bundles in the YoMix App. The way it works though is rather backwards. It dials via USSD and this breaks your internet connection for a few seconds. This usually leads to failed transactions as the app processing a payment may be unable to reconnect to the internet and verify the payment.
They should have an API that works like PayPal and processes transactions from within the platform you made a payment request. If I initiate a payment from a website, I should get an OTP sent via sms to my phone, the way banks do it with online payments. After I enter the OTP into the website, my payment is processed and I unlock my premium [insert illegal in Zimbabwe website platform here] subscription. Step up your game EcoCash!
PayNow has APIs that process payments for almost any platform using all common programming languages too. Their challenge however, is that their system is plagued by flaws from both PayNow itself and EcoCash. The above mentioned USSD disconnection issue is one.
The second major problem we faced trying to integrate PayNow into Age-X apps was that 20% of all transactions just failed to initiate. The prompt for a user to enter their PIN to complete a purchase just didn’t show up. This was a big turn off for us. Our user base is large enough for the amount of failed transactions to be around 20,000 per month. That is a lot.
The second issue with PayNow is that you need to have a server to be able to safely and securely process payments. This immediately disqualifies a lot of starting out devs who need to make money to be able to pay for the servers in the first place. Why doesn’t PayNow have a free online server system that you can integrate together with their API to process payments? Think of how Amazon does it with AWS. Given that PayNow is also under the same people who run WebDev, how is this not set up already?
Now I may be reaching with this, but PayNow disables their ZESA payments when its that time of the month. As big as the company is, how have they not managed to collaborate with ZETDC and solve the ZESA DDOS conundrum? Step up your game PayNow!
Zimbabwean banks have turned from being banks to running mafia racketeering schemes. As previously mentioned, banks already have a system that can process payments online by sending an OTP to your mobile phone. The same banks handle salaries for all civil servants, the majority of people who commute to and from work. And banks have not provided a payment solution for public transport. We also still need to use our bank cards to pay for everything. This is so 1972. Our concern though, is processing mobile payments in apps and banks have not made any steps to even try and penetrate the market. They seem to be too busy charging us $5 a month to keep our money safe. Classic mafia tactics.
Maybe the problem is us
We may be blaming the companies behind payment platforms for not innovating, but the problem could be us as Zimbo devs. The few real devs that we have (someone on Twitter said most of us are Twitter devs, his words, not mine) are not creating apps that are pulling crowds. With the lack of a large market to tap, giants like Econet do not feel the need to provide a payment solution.