Mpesa granted independence from VCL

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By Lineo Ramatlapeng

Vodacom Lesotho’s mobile money division M-Pesa will now operate under an independent company named VCL Financial Services.

Palesa Mphunyetsane, who has been the executive director of M-Pesa within Vodacom Lesotho said the entity received its authorization by the Central Bank of Lesotho licensing it to operate as a financial services provider.

She said VCL Financial Services is a company wholly owned by Vodacom Lesotho.

Launched in 2013, Mphunyetsane said M-Pesa started with just 2 people working under the division but today as it turns into an independent company has 24 people working for it.

She also added that it is another milestone where they now have over a million customers who have registered with M-Pesa and on average monthly transactions of about M1 billion.

Mphunyetsane explained said the transformation enables the brand to further diversify its product offerings with the aim of becoming a fully-fledged financial services institution.

She adds their vision is to provide a platform and a service that will enable every customer to access financial inclusion, not just convenient but also at affordable fees.

“We started very small, we are now old enough to be independent and be able to go out there and serve better,” said Mphunyetsane.

Mphunyetsane added Basotho has been able to send and receive money, buy airtime and bundles, pay for utility bills, create savings groups and perform international money transfers, all with M-Pesa.

“We want to make sure that we convert the conventional banking to a digital transformation by holding our customers and walk another journey of digitalization where we could actually turn Lesotho into the 4th industrial revolution era,” said Mphunyetsane.

Mohale Ralebitso VCL’s managing director said it has been 25 years with eight of M-Pesa in the market, and it has been quite a journey of fundamentally transforming the lives of “our customers in the mobile sector”.

Mphunyetsane corroborated Ralebitso adding the transformation will see them bringing more solutions to the market, helping to address a number of societal challenges regarding payments and collections.

She said their focus will be on savings and investments; lending solutions for individuals and small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs); wealth management; payments and collections; and the digitization of services.

“From a customer point of view, all branding, support structures, contacts, and infrastructure will remain the same,” she explained.

Ralebitso said they also achieved something none of them would have dreamed possible when they look back from decades ago that they would have financial inclusion growing at the rate it is growing.

He said there were times when many people were left outside not only of the wider economy but also of being able to transact or moving money from one another.

“We thank the central bank for being an informed and helpful regulator in terms of guiding us as we roll out the growing capabilities, which we hope to broaden with time such that may enable an increase in individuals and businesses that might find a use for our capabilities,” Ralebitso said.

M-pesa and mobile money in general, Ralebitso said are important because they allow them to serve customers and allow participation of people in the model of transactions, he added that without financial access the economy would not grow.

In 1996 when VCL started its operations in Lesotho, Lebola Lebete, VCL’s board chairperson, said mobile communication technologies were fast taking the world by storm but were still not fully understood and appreciated in Lesotho.

Lebete said the convenience of round-the-clock communication was limited to payphones spotted in most major towns in the county, they, therefore, believed that the next development would be how to increase the number of payphones and introduce new payment methods.

However, Lebete said people soon were able to not just talk over the phone but also share short messages, pictures, longer texts, and larger documents.

He said it was there for logical data representation, longer videos, live events could be streamed over smartphones.

VCL then rebranded its self from vital cellular link to VCL in order to not only reflect these developments as a distinct company but also mirror its identity as a global planner, Lebete explained.

“VCL financial services will also place significant emphasis on ensuring that enhanced governance and controls are put in place, through the establishment of various departments including risk, internal auditing, and anti-money laundering by strengthening strategic partnerships with relevant institutions,” said Mphunyetsane.