The Netone-ZESA marriage- Pride goeth before a fall

Victor Mukandatsama Avatar


A must-be-gleeful NetOne was granted an unexpected boost ahead of its competitors in the ZESA prepaid electricity retailing facility. They are the only MNO awarded the opportunity to sell prepaid electricity tokens.

No surprises there if you have bothered to read a bit of ZIMASSET. I warn NetOne not to celebrate prematurely though. I have seen how they are going about capitalising this opportunity and I am driven by no malice when I say Pride goeth…

To pay for ZESA via OneWallet you need to swap your 32k SIM for the 128k SIM for free or buy a Netone SIM pack. Once activated, you then need to register (partially via your own phone and fully via an agent) for One Wallet.

Once setup a Netone services app appears on your list of applications from which you can conduct e-wallet transactions. I suppose this is better than direct USSD as with Econet and Telecel. You then need to apply to register your meter number by dialing *120*8#. If your registration is approved by OneWallet, you will receive a text message advice and an extra menu item for ZESA Prepaid.

Anyone following the process will realise two things. Firstly their system requires preregistering biller details (account number etc.) the derivative of which one can then pay for the bill. In other words you don’t just pay for any bills you want to any biller you wish. Which is why you haven’t seen any posters with biller codes. Well also because they only have one major biller; ZESA. Which brings me to the second observation.

Other than ZESA, their system does not seem to be very scalable (I may be wrong). Either that, or their transaction ideology is uncommon to the market. This is unlike the EcoCash and TeleCash system in which liberalisation of the transactions and the transactions origination exists. It’s a system where agents, billers and merchants are equally critical and solicit and consume at will.

The One Wallet system follows a bureaucratic mountain top approach. Everything depends on an approval process from OneWallet somehow. Approval to register to pay ZESA? Really?

Thirdly, NetOne are seeking to get maximum mileage in subscription numbers making sure they sign on as many users onto OneWallet as possible. Personally, I think this is where they are getting it wrong. Rather than sell the efficiency of the system to get your bills done and set off a snow ball, they are proving it to be riddled with so many spanners.

As an example, It is not possible to register more than two ZESA prepaid meters. Translated: You are not allowed to buy prepaid electricity other than for a maximum of two preregistered meters because if you do, the other beneficiaries won’t bother to join Netone. If you want to pay ZESA from your phone, then join OneWallet.

The fall….

NetOne is ranked third second out of three players as far as subscriber base. Some critics argue the awarding of this licence to sell prepaid electricity to NetOne and not the rest of the Networks, especially EcoCash, is a true inconvenience. If the government were to change its policy for whatever reason, Netone could be the least prepared of the three in as far as convenience, and that will be their fall.


  1. Magneto

    I am tempted to agree with you sir… the hallmark of the phenomenal success experienced by Econet on most of its services is to a large extent due to their simplicity. It makes it easier to build an ecosystem around the services lending them scalability and acceptance.

  2. Jassy

    Where is the Competition and Tariff Commission. This is a clear case of restrictive business practices that is meant to promote one player in the market (NetOne) at the expense of other players (Econet, Telecel). This is not allowed in terms of the Competition Act.

  3. tsano

    “Remember the consumer is the king”, they are kind of forcing this on us, i went to ZESA to pay my electicity bill sometime ago and there was only one Cashier serving us, which resulted in a very long queue, what surprised me is that there were Netone agents strolling up and down the queue asking people to join one wallet so that they can pay their bills (I did not give in to this obviously).

    What these people should learn is that this is a business, why do they seem to be forcing people to use their service? moreover its not a level playing field, why didn’t they also allow Econet and Telecel customers to pay their zesa bills using their networks?

  4. masimba chigama

    this is a contract for the boys