American Tower Cooperation
Kenya

Innovation, business strategy key to realising financial inclusion goal

Interoperability allows for the unrestricted sharing of resources between different systems. This can refer to the ability to share data between different components or machines, both via software and hardware, or it can be defined as the exchange of information and resources between different computers.There has been a push to get telcos in Kenya to allow their mobile money systems to interoperate.

Interoperability allows for the unrestricted sharing of resources between different systems. FILE PHOTO | NMG

An article by King’ori Choto published in a recent Business Daily edition, and another by Clare Ruto, the chief corporate affairs officer at Telkom, have made for some interesting reading this week. First, Choto argues eloquently that policy and regulatory interventions are necessary in the interoperability sphere that is now becoming a by-word for telcos in Kenya.Interoperability allows for the unrestricted sharing of resources between different systems.This can refer to the ability to share data between different components or machines, both via software and hardware, or it can be defined as the exchange of information and resources between different computers.

There has been a push to get telcos in Kenya to allow their mobile money systems to interoperate.In fact, the telcos themselves have been negotiating and last month announced that they had reached commercial agreements on how they will make this work.Which brings me back to Choto’s article. While he is eloquent in his argument, he falls short on how the regulations he suggests could benefit consumers.In her article, Ruto goes into the history of regulation in Kenya, which is where her argument is joined at the hip with Choto’s. She argues that interoperability would deepen financial inclusion in Kenya but latches onto regulation to fix this.From a strategic point of view, there is something amiss. It would be my expectation as a mobile services customer that different players will come to me with competing innovations and business strategies that allow me a free choice.We are a free market in which different business strategies should be allowed to compete freely without being hampered by regulation. I’m all for innovation as a way of competing in business. Reported elsewhere this week is a deal between Telkom and American Tower Cooperation for acquisition of 723 towers in Kenya.Telkom Kenya CEO Aldo Mareuse was quoted as saying that the sale would release capital for further investment in their 4G network and a number of state-of-the-art IT platforms, “all of which will further enhance services for our customers.”As a consumer of mobile services, this last pronouncement made me look up. Does this kind of business strategy hold the answer to greater customer experience across all telcos?I would argue that indeed, a better future in the Silicon Savannah will be crafted on the platforms of innovation and killer business strategies. Equitel has proved something about business strategy.It’s a success story that has been built in the same market that other competitors appeared afraid on unwilling to take risks in.I’m happy because as a customer, it offers me credible choices and alternatives.Relying on regulation to address market competition is akin to equally sharing out marks between students who have been to the same classes and sat the same exam. It would be plainly unfair.

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