EVC Plus, one of the most sophisticated mobile banking services, was introduced by Hormuud Telecommunications at a time the security situation for residents in Mogadishu was at stake in the form of wide spread road blocks, organised crimes, robbery and pick pocketing were all rampant and became part of the daily occurrences in the capital city.
People would queue for remittance companies to pay for their bills and conduct their other normal businesses from transferring money to depositing into their accounts since there is no such possibility where one can carry the bulky Somali shillings in their pockets and the only available small dollar notes were limited in availability.
Even though I used to use a bit similar service called (M-Pesa) yet I was so impressed to have seen the EVC Plus service in Mogadishu which is way too far advanced than (M-Pesa) and one of the interesting facts about this service is, unlike M-pesa, it is free and easy to obtain from every shop in the village or in the high street.
Hodan is a businesswoman who trades in the retail petrol and oil when asked about her EVC Plus experience and what it has brought into her life she responded that this service has facilitated me a lot and made my life simple. “I can send my bills and rent over my mobile phone. I can also pay my children’s school fees on the tip of my finger and all I need is just to grab my mobile and hit the send button just in the twinkle of an eye” she added that she used to fear for her life when she used to carry money with her. She said smilingly that she is thankful to Allah for letting her have this easy and innovative service and to her EVC Plus answered many question to her problems.
It is not only Hodan that has appreciated this service but there are many others like the widely and mostly used transport users in Mogadishu nicknamed “ Bajaaj” because of its small size also charge customers using the EVC Plus service where one will only need to transfer money from their mobile phones to the other without the need of talking cash in their pockets.
One of the main reasons “ Bajaaj” (Rickshaw) drivers prefer EVC Plus is that the minimum fare is half dollar and there are about five thousand estimated “Bajaajs” running up and down in Mogadishu
Before EVC Plus if someone wanted to remit money locally they had to use the remittance companies, thus resulting in the payment of commission money on top of the money to they send now EVC Pus had taken over that role without commission charges people can transfer money on this service. Mohamed Ali, a traditional elder in Mogadishu and a very aged man expressed his immense surprise with this new service whilst nodding his head he said that he paid for the lunch bills of some of his elder friends in a small town in Galgadud region over his mobile phone using the EVC Plus service. He murmured that he had never thought of seeing such technology facilitated service while alive. A young boy, nicknamed Gurey, stressed that the introduction of this service had reduced robbery and crime mainly with those thugs with pistols and daggers whose profession was to rob ordinary people to and from their places of work and homes. “Now, thieves and robbers stand no chance of taking our money because it is already in our mobile phones with a password only known by its owner.” He concluded.
The use of this new service has brought new Somali language slang words in the markets such as “ Furaha waa shan’’ (the key is five) “ Tuur’’ (throw it over) and many others.
The maximum money you can deposit into EVC is $300 as confirmed to me by one of the managers of Hormuud. When I had inquired about what EVC stands for, he told me that it is abbreviated from ‘Electronic Voucher Card Plus’ (EVC+), adding that the intended purpose of this service was to replace the need of top up mobile calling cards to give customers that peace of mind and also give customers the freedom to change their voice minutes into money without the need to go to shops or company’s offices to recharge credit.
But for visible needs people started to use for their business transactions and he said that Hormuud is happy for making difference in people’s lives. Shuceyb grew up in London but now lives in Mogadishu he is one of those customers over delighted with EVC. He told me that back in London he used to carry a wallet with his bank cards and money and now he doesn’t have to do that, thanks to EVC plus.
I, myself, is among the many customers of Hormuud Telecom who constantly rely on using this service. When I came to Mogadishu I used to deposit money to Salama Bank. Now that hassle of waiting in queue and going back and forth is gone. I can deposit my money in my mobile and get it out whenever I need it.
There are also many people in the Diaspora who use EVC Plus to transfer money for their loves ones back home. EVC is more secure, free and fast thanks Hormuud telecom for providing us such worthy service.
Now the worth asking question is how the life would have been without EVC Plus?
It is a service that has been rejoiced in Mogadishu particularly and in Somalia as whole and has become a success story. Without EVC Plus, it is thugs in the street waiting for robbing people, a long queue to the remittance companies costing time and money and last but not least the end of people paying for their family and friends’ urgent bills in remote places
Even though some critics may suggest that the whole cash has gone into one place, meaning the EVC Plus, yet the pros of this service way too far over weights cons for the simple reason that customers’ money is in safe hands.
Finally, I went to the Mogadishu airport on my way to Nairobi, and I asked the Hormuud agent at airport as to how I can change my EVC credit to Cash on US Dollar. Luckily, they paid much needed hard currency and happily said I love you EVC Plus and Good bye for the time being. See you soon on!
By Yusuf Hassan