In Nyanja, one of Zambia’s 73 official languages, Zoona means “it’s real!” or “it’s true!”—an exclamation to emphasize fact.
After spending seven days in the field, traveling over 2,800 kilometers, and helping train 18 Zoona tellers, I’m noticing how Zoona is creating real results even in far-flung regions of Zambia, differentiating itself from other MNO-operated competitors. I’ll share three insights gleaned from my fieldwork:
1) Zoona is the only Zambian mobile money company that views its agents and tellers as its main customers. One of the most crucial factors in a mobile money company’s success is the quality of its agent network (source). Through its training program, Zoona seeks to sharpen the acumen of its 500-plus agents, helping agents make informed business decisions. In development speak, we’d term this as “capacity building” and “harnessing human capital.” As an intern, I will be working on this end, designing new entrepreneurship- and management-focused trainings to empower agents in their businesses.
2) Zoona provides unique customer-facing services to its agents. Through Kiva, crowd-sourced loans of up to 35,000 kwacha help agents add to their float (defined nicely here by a former Ambassador) or to cover sunk start-up costs, such as the cost of a branded Zoona booth. Knowing that agents in rural areas face greater liquidity challenges, Zoona is now deploying Zoona Cash, an innovative reconciliation tool that allows agents’ float levels to drop below zero so long as they re-balance within 24 hours. These are services heretofore unseen in other MNO-operated mobile money operations.