By Abdi Ali
Published August 7, 2016
Tigo, a telecommunications company in Tanzania is focusing on digital inclusion, education and business entrepreneurship as the priorities that shall drive its long-term social investment objectives in the East African country.
Speaking at the Global System Mobile Association (GSMA) Mobile 360-Africa Conference held July 26-28, 2016, Diego Gutierrez, the General Manager of the telecom that trades as Tigo in Tanzania, said his was “the first telecom company in the world in 2014 to share profit generated from its mobile money Trust Account in the form of a quarterly distribution to its customers.”
Gutierrez said that through Tigo Pesa–that has more than 50000 merchants across Tanzania–Tigo had given its customers access to what he referred to as “Africa’s first universal mobile money exchange system.”
Explaining the return to customers is calculated based on a customer’s average daily balance stored in their mobile wallets, Gutierrez said Tigo Pesa users have earned TSh40.7 billion (about US$18,397,406) in profit share since the scheme was started in 2014.
He reiterated the company’s pioneering role in localising digital content and offering zero-rated products and services that are meant to transform the lives of its customers.
“Tigo was the first telecom in Tanzania to introduce free Facebook and affordable Smartphones whose interfaces are fully embedded in Kiswahili, the country’s national language so as to open the doors to our customers to access our products and services in a language they can easily understand,” Gutierrez said in a paper titled Creating Opportunities for Local Digital Content.
Ruan Swanepoel, Tigo Tanzania’s Head of Mobile Financial Services, said all “financial mobile money networks” can transact through Tigo Pesa by “buying and paying from our widest network of Tigo Pesa merchants that are spread all over the country.” He observed that 98% of transactions in Tanzania are still cash-based, stressing that “the end-game of the evolution of inter-operability was to avoid cash-outs in the payment of utilities in future.”
Shavkat Berdiev, Tigo’s Chief Commercial Officer said his company is working towards “closing the mobile gender gap and fostering financial inclusion among the underprivileged, especially the low-income women in the country.”
Tigo, he said, would close the mobile gender gap in Tanzania among underprivileged women through the provision of mobile phones and supporting income-generating micro-finance schemes that target low-income women in a programme dubbed, ‘Connected Women Project’.
“Tigo has already set the pace in contributing to closing the mobile gender gap by providing 400 mobile phones and training on mobile phone use to needy women in Kilwa and Rufiji Districts in the Coastal Region in Tanzania. This is a deliberate move by our company to open up the barriers to both access and use of mobile phones such as cost, cultural issues and low levels of digital literacy”, he said.
About 58% of women in Tanzamia owned a mobile phone in 2014 compared to 78% of men.A GSMA 2015 report on the gender gap in mobile access and usage, 27 million fewer women than men own mobile phones in Africa.
Noting that Tigo’s target was to reduce the gender gap in Mobile Financial Services by 5%, Berdiev explained that mobile phone ownership and usage by women had the potential to unlock benefits for women as well as the mobile industry and broader economy.
According to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, women could bring in an extra US$170 billion in revenue to the telecommunications industry by 2020 if their contribution to the sector is fully exploited through bridging the mobile gender gap.
Through Connected Women Commitment initiative, Tigo Tanzania is among other 75 operators that plan to tackle the many barriers that hinder women from owning mobile phones.
Tigo’s drive towards offering cheaper phones and micro-finance loans will not only connect Tanzanian women to the world of digital lifestyle but will also contribute to their economic wellbeing and hence better life.