By Kudzanai Gerede
Steward bank yesterday launched a Whatsapp banking platform in partnership with Facebook.inc that will allow all banking transactions across all local banks from one’s Whatsapp account on a mobile phone.
Facebook.Inc. wholly owns Whatsapp.
The platform that goes by the name “Sosholoza”is so portable that one has to save the number, 0777 222 333 on their mobile phone contacts list and simply go on Whatsapp and text, “hie” on that number then start communicating with “Batsi” the virtual assistant who will assist with the banking experience.
It is the first on the local market, and so flexible that one can transact while simultaneously conversing with friends online while it also provides other features such as opening a new bank account, pay ZESA tokens and other bills.
The Sosholoza platform allows customers to send airtime, transact using ecocash, ZIPIT and ZimSwitch while its also connected to MasterCard and Visa card for all external transactions and it also separates local RTGS dollars from US Dollars.
Steward Bank chief executive officer, Lance Mambondiani told 263ChatBusiness that Sosholoza was inspired by the bank’s vision to achieve universal access to banking products.
‘Our concept is to simplify banking. Its an exciting partnership for us, we are the second bank in Africa as the guys said, as we have partnered with Facebook to launch this platform so that we can do banking transactions on Whatsapp. Its an incredible feat for our team and everybody who have worked on this, but what we wanted to do was to make sure we make banking universal so on this platform all we did is that we have combined two things, Whatsapp, because we know that’s were you spend your time, and banking, so put the two together and we have said, who ever you bank with, no matter where your money is, you can do transactions as long as you have a Whatsapp number,” said Mambondiani.
Sosholoza platform was entirely developed by the Steward bank’s internal tech-department with the assistance of Facebook after approaching the US tech giant with the concept.
It becomes the second such platform done by Facebook with an African bank after a similar project with a South Africa bank earlier.
“So our technology team and the Facebook team worked together and integrated us in a matter of months. We then took the product to all our regulators. We took it to Zimswitch, we also took it to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for their approval, but as you know this is an entirely new concept we wanted to ensure that somebody independent would verify that your transactions are indeed safe on Facebook and Whatsapp, so we invited EY (Ernest n Young) to do an independent assessment and verification to see if your transactions are safe and they gave us that verification which we are happy we are going to safe guard your transactions,” added Mambondiani.
This is the latest digital innovation among a host of others that local banks are seized with in ensuring the majority of Zimbabweans have access to banking products but due to challenges in internet penetration in some areas, glitches in internet connectivity and impulsive political controls on the internet, the innovative strides continue to face drawbacks.
In January, following a violent national shutdown organised by the workers body, ZCTU, Government ordered telecoms companies to shut down internet, a move that left the transacting public stranded for about 5 days.