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Technology panacea for looming cashless society

PINI BOTHOKO
Bothoko eating life with a big spoon in Beijing
BEIJING: Innovation is slowly changing the way money is perceived and exchanged, but in most developed countries the case is completely different as people live in cashless era. Mmegi Staff Writer PINI BOTHOKO highlights her observations about money matters in her first ever trip overseas

Most countries in Africa are well-positioned to benefit from rapidly accelerating technological change while Botswana is slowly catching up the pace. During a recent visit to Beijing, the capital city of China, Mmegi observed that China might be a global leader in mobile payments.

In Beijing one cannot find a person holding a wallet nor cash, not even to buy a cup of coffee or pay for a taxi. What they do is use their phones to pay for everything that they want.

The Chinese have a mobile system called ‘We Chat’ that operates like WhatsApp in Botswana. Through the facility, one is able to open money accounts on and use to pay for almost everything except large transactions that require huge amounts of money.

Walking around the streets of Beijing city everyone irrespective of age are always glued to mobile phones either communicating or processing payments. The gadgets enable people to pay for meals in restaurants, buy groceries, pay for taxis, do any shopping of their choice to mention but a few.

In a way, that indeed shows that Beijing is a cashless city, a movement that countries like Botswana where thieves are giving people sleepless nights through incidents such as  pick- pocketing could move swiftly to the embrace technology-based forms of payments.

As technology has taken over in most areas, there is a need for Botswana to attract investors who can introduce new forms of payment other than hard cash, That could be a long way in curbing theft.

Walking on the streets of Beijing one cannot think of being pick-pocketed. Perhaps one can say this is exactly what Botswana needs.

However, over the recent years there have been smart movements by local banks and mobile network

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providers following the introduction of services such as contact less payments terminal and mobile payments, online banking to mention but a few.

These are indications that if such faster development of digital payment could be made available for everyone, no one could be paid in cash in the country, hence the attainment of  to a cashless era. Few years ago, Orange Botswana introduced ‘Orange money’, an innovative mobile phone-based payment system that allows customers to carry out simple banking operations and transactions in total security. This system does not require a bank account and one can access it everywhere even in rural villages as it is available in supermarkets.

With this system, Orange network customers can cash in or deposit money into an Orange money account, cash out or withdraw money from their account, transfer money from one person to the other within the country.

This is one technological innovation that cuts down the use of cash as users can buy airtime, pay bills or even pay for goods and services from utility companies or service providers.

Another mobile network, Mascom also has ‘Mascom My zaka’ that also offers similar services to its subscribers. With these services as well as the penetration of smartphones, Botswana like other African countries, is slowly witnessing the significant potential of digital innovation in the remittance and mobile wallet space.

What excites more about the use of cashless payments is that it leaves behind traceable records, making it harder to conceal income, evade tax, especially that currently Botswana is somewhat overwhelmed by cases of tax invasion.

The use of cash has over the years played a major role in criminal activities like bribery, tax invasion to mention but a few.



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