Developed by four partners, the mobile money services app enables users to digitally search for the nearest agents
Imagine this. You are in the office and in need of a large sum of money but there is not a single mobile money agent around.
What do you do?
Wakala Search is the answer. The mobile money services app saves mobile money users the trouble to search around for agents. The app enables users to search for nearby agents digitally.
In an interview with Media Convergency, the co-founder of Wakala Search, Mary Marealle Rweyemamu narrates how the idea came about, how Wakala Search operates, their targeted customers and what they look forward to achieving in future.
Wakala Search was established in 2017 by four partners, Mary Rweyemamu, George Marealle, Diana Marealle and Eddy Nchwembu. Their office is located at Millennium Towers in Makumbusho, Dar es salaam.
The inspiration behind
Mary says she a person who likes to see things move efficiently while saving time. For her, things like where to deposit or withdraw cash shouldn’t be an obstacle in the internet age, where everything is at the tips of one’s fingers. This is how the idea to come up with Wakala Search was born.
“We later came up with an idea to have a geo locater, where one, through the app, can search for a mobile money agent to cater for all their needs, without the need of physically visiting these agents,” Mary says.
Wakala Search creates a communication link between the mobile money agents and mobile money users.
How the service works
With Wakala Search, there are two sides that we look into; one being how the mobile service operates for the client and the other being how the search for the Wakala can effectively work.
For a person in need of the mobile money services, what he or she needs to do is download the app, register, choose your mobile operator and what you want to do with that operation, what services you want to pay for, then make the payment or withdraw the money you need.
Mary says that they either sort out the Wakalas or the Wakalas come to them. The company verifies the agents’ business licenses after which they provide the business owners’ national ID card. This information stays in Wakala Search database in case anything happens. Afterwards, the agents are given a code where they can register themselves and pin their location.
Anyone who is already financially included in the mobile money platform or is looking to be financially included in the platform is Wakala Search’s target customer. Customers are reached through advertising, social media platforms, Google ads, as well as through word of mouth.
In the near future Wakala Search looks forward to having a marketing team that will be responsible for promoting its business. It could be through billboards ads, reaching out to local media, be it TV or radio.
The eco-system positioning
So far Wakala Search is the only innovative product of its kind and most significantly, it has positioned itself in a way that all fintech technological solutions can use it to its maximum advantage.
Fintech solutions from power centres such as mobile companies, banking systems and other related entities can use Wakala Search. Another aspect is the geo locater that helps its users to identify the location of the nearest Wakala based on where the consumer of such service is located.
Wakala Search App advantages
The first is convenience. The App helps save time for both the agent and user and fast service delivery from knowing exactly when and where to get mobile money service at any given time or area. An agent provides only the available service.
Second is promoting financial inclusion, due to easy accessibility. The user shall use electronic money to purchase goods and services in stores, payment of water and electricity bills, buying airtime, internet bundles, payment of government taxes, and the list is long.
Another advantage is the increase of agent commissions, spillover from increased transactions from Wakala Search clients.
The presence of Centralised Agent Report is another plus. There is a digital report from all MNOs transactions that enables one to know the overall commission.
Another major advantage is the security that the app offers. Mobile money users are free to walk cashless with assurance that they can make transactions anywhere. Also the app can trace activities done between the mobile money service provider and the consumer of such service in case of fraud.
Wakala Search marks getting the voice of approval from TCRA, BOT and being officially registered as an accomplishment in their journey. Another milestone was participating in capacity building programmes organised by Financial Sector Deepening Trust(FSDT) and taking part in start-up accelerator competitions such as the Vodacom accelerator programme, where 500 start-ups were competing for seed funds and Wakala Search got to be among the top 10. Lastly is having more than 1,000 downloads in less than a year.
Mary says, “I am happy to say that Wakala Search is available not only in Dar es Salaam but also in other regions such as Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Morogoro.”
The Covid-19 impact
“Wakala Search has been impacted by the pandemic because we have had to self-fund our business, which is challenging. Also movements had been limited due to the pandemic so this affected our advocacy and awareness initiatives. On the flip side, there have been some positive gains since clients preferred our services because they provided the solutions while supporting less movement,” says Mary.
“Just dare because failing is inevitable, mistakes happen and we shouldn’t lean on the ‘what if’s but rather be brave and keep pushing forward,” Mary advises.
Wakala Search looks forward to the day that a single Mobile Money Integration platform will be launched. This new platform will have mechanisms, that will allow the merging of all mobile money services into a single platform.
This will make it possible for anyone in need of making payment, depositing or withdrawing cash to simply use their phones and their needs will be met without having to physically visit a bank or other mobile money agents.
Mary gives a note of appreciation to the whole team of Wakala Search, her husband and father, all who have been her mentors throughout her career journey. She is also thankful to the regulators who have been more accepting and understanding, particularly the Bank of Tanzania and Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority.
Mary conveys her appreciation to Media Convergency Company Limited that has provided a platform that not only showcases technological innovations but also gives opportunity for featured businesses to share lessons learned while also providing them visibility, which can potentially open doors to future partnerships and investment opportunities.
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