In 2011, Orange Botswana launched Orange Money as a division within the gigantic cellular mobile services company. The innovative trial was the first of its kind in the country and meant to bridge the financial services gap by embracing those without banks and the informal sector.
But as Orange Money commemorated its 10 years of supporting Batswana through inclusive mobile money solutions this week, sentiments echoed by several key speakers told the story of a high risk taking financial services provider rookie to a dominant force to reckon within a highly banked population of Botswana.
The question of how Orange risked ruining its reputation by a service that almost had no chance in the market is the story of how the then little known Orange Money service was born. According to management at Orange, it took a sense of confidence and the ultimate belief that things would turn out right in the end.
So, as everyone came dressed in their latest suits and dresses on Wednesday this week, champagne glasses were lifted and everyone toasted to this historic success. The occasion was extraordinary. Orange took a journey down memory lane to mark 10 years of its mobile money service. And making the 10th year anniversary worth more celebrating is the fact that Orange Money is now a 100 percent subsidiary of Orange Botswana, a separation that the company envisaged to hold a bolder future.
How Orange defied odds
From defying stereotypes and skepticism at birth, Orange Money now boasts an active user base that exceeds 30 percent of Botswana’s addressible market of persons above the age of 16 years old. Orange holds 30 percent of the mobile money market share, which makes it a leading force in this game of big name players.
However, this was not a walk in the park as they faced stiff competition from arch rivals Mascom through their My Zaka services and BTC’s mobile money wallet Smega which was introduced in recent years.
Speaking at the glamorous occasion at The Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone, the CEO of Orange Money, Seabelo Pilane, noted: “Orange was the first to introduce mobile money services by rolling out Orange Money in 2011. The typical question on the market was whether it had a fighting chance, considering that mobile money services traditionally have limited success in markets that have a high banked population such as Botswana.
However, we were silently confident and stood the course. Today we are proud to say Orange Money is the leading mobile financial services provider in the country since its inception 10 years ago.”
The visibly delighted CEO commended the boards of Orange Money and Orange Botswana for their continued believe and trust in the product even when nobody gave it a change.
Going forward, the mobile money giant will trade as Orange Money (Pty) Ltd following the Bank of Botswana’s (BoB) implementation of Regulation on Electronic Payment Services under which Orange Money falls.
Pilane is confident that the transformation, which is another first in the market, will add to an increasing bevy of firsts by the leading telecommunications entity. “This is a tremendous milestone for Orange Botswana and all within our fold,” he said. “Our products and services portfolio has grown in leaps and bounds since our initial offering of basic mobile money service, such as Cash-In Cash-Out and Person-to-Person transfers.”
Over the years, the mobile money service provider managed to work on more “sophisticated but simple to use services” to enable the growth of Orange Money, he added.
Looking down the 10-year journey, Pilane noted that in 2013, they introduced the Orange Money Visa Card, which was also a first for Botswana. Furthermore, Bank-to-Wallet was introduced which allows for transactions from banks to Orange Money subscribers and vice versa, as well as the International Money Transfer (IMT) which is available in countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa.
In its quest for continuous innovation, in 2021 the mobile money leading company added the Card-to-Wallet service and Bill Payment solutions which offered more financial inclusion and convenience.
In an interview with The Business Weekly & Review on the sidelines of the event, Pilane spoke of the hurdles they had to overcome. “The most difficult part was when we started to convince our partners that this service is going to work. We managed to convince them.”
He mentioned trust as another challenge from customers used to commercial banks, prompting the company to innovate and devise a strategy. That is how the Visa Card was introduced in 2013. “This was the turning point for Orange Money,” Pilane said.
At the beginning of the year, Orange Money had 500 000 active customers, a figure that represents 30 percent of the addressable market in Botswana. Pilane said another method that worked wonders for them was communication and education of customers about the company’s service offering. “We are seeing a lot of growth in our active base, transactions and revenues,” he said.
The entire executive management at Orange Botswana and Orange Money anticipates a bright future of continued market dominance. The company has maintained that the idea to provide people with access to mobile money will be smoothened and will evolve with time.
Against this background, Pilane noted that Orange Money will revamp its app. “Our next step is to revamp our old app and the next one will focus on different types of payments,” he said