Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) says the idea behind prepaid third party vending is to make it easier for consumers to have access to electricity. The idea is also have make long queues at BPC centers shorter.
“We wanted our customers to have ease of access,” said BPC Chief Executive Officer, Jacob Raleru. “We want the public to use the channels we have created”.
BPC has 6 Super Vendors that were selected through a bidding process with most of them foreign owned as the technology is relatively new in the country. The appointed vendors include; BotswanaPost, which is 100 percent owned by Botswana government, Lowe Power, Sandulela Telecom Botswana, Q Music Technologies and Ideal Prepaid amongst others.
Previously, BPC only had 128 vendors made up of its offices and private businesses country wide with the equipment largely owned by BPC and 1 or 2 privately owned. However, this old arrangement has its own problems as it was not supported by technology with only walk-in customers and its 24 hour access was limited to filing stations.
BPC also blamed frequent network failures and accessibility was a big issue. But with the coming of Super Vending model, access was broadened as consumers can now use wide range of tools to buy electricity.
Penetration is also high as there are about 1200 vending points countrywide and electricity can be purchased on mobile phones, ATMs, Internet and e-wallet. Super Vendors have been appointed to sell to retail vendors and then retail vendors sell to consumers.
The pre paid roll out in urban areas is gaining momentum as it is currently 73% complete. BPC says in Lobatse and Jwaneng, the project is 99.9 % complete, Francistown 89% complete, Gaborone is 65% complete and Selibe Phikwe 68% complete. The project is expected to be completed by 30th September 2013 and BPC is currently at Mop Up Stage, where customers that have not yet converted are helped to convert to pre-paid.
Technical Officer at Lowe Power, Bonolo Kelapile said for the future they will be looking to add short message service (sms) to their offering and they are also looking to be eco-friendly by providing a service that does not need (or need less Internet connection).
A representative of Q Music Technologies, which has partnered with Smart Switch Botswana, admitted that the super vending project is relatively new in Botswana. “We are committed and we want to see a smooth delivery of this product,” Kevin Duke, Smart Switch Chief Executive Officer said.
Q Music Technologies has a switch in Botswana and operates a call centre in Gaborone and a small office in Francistown. Duke said they started with a point of sale and this is being enhanced as the project becomes stable.
Sandulela Telecom Botswana said it has over 300 vendors countrywide and it is currently vending on point of sale and working on launching mobile services with Mascom. It is also working on offering internet vending which will ‘allow armchair vending’.
A director at the company, Percy Radikoro, acknowledged that the project is still at its infancy, but assured the consumers it will be efficient in the future. “We are still at infancy and we are (going) around the country supporting our vendors,” he said. “We want to promise the public that there will be no more system down”.
On the other hand, Nolan Voss of Ideal Prepaid said they ‘are committed’ to the project and want to help in the employment creation. BotswanaPost, which also has a large branch network around the country has partnered with First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) to make it easier to buy electricity.