‘Econet stole my idea’

via ‘Econet stole my idea’ – The Zimbabwean 13 May 2015

Econet Wireless is likely to face a lawsuit after reportedly hijacking a mobile savings scheme targeting low-income women’s grassroots groups.

The company was recently embroiled in a media storm after it raided a local publication, The Source, accusing it of stealing documents for use in a story. The move was widely condemned by journalists and civil rights defenders.

The EcoCash Savings Club scheme was launched on May 6 and is a new mobile product supporting informal savings groups in Zimbabwe. The initiative is meant to benefit subscribers registered on EcoCash, the mobile money transfer platform, with informal savings clubs earning varying amounts of interest over a 30 day period, depending on the amount deposited.

Econet is partnering with the Organisation for Public Health Interventions (OPHID), a local NGO, working especially with women’s groups, but the scheme is generally aimed at millions of mostly low income subscribers – the self-employed, informal sector entrepreneurs, street vendors and social investor women’s groups.

Striking similarities

A non-profit savings outfit, Money Book Capital Trust (MBCT), is alleging that Econet stole its idea for the scheme through middle-rank managers with whom the concept had been shared.

Volumes of documents made available to The Zimbabwean show that MBCT shared its mobile savings idea with staff from Econet and Ernst and Young years before the mobile service provider launched the scheme.

There are striking similarities between the recently launched scheme and the concept that MBCT shared with staff from Ecobank—a subsidiary of Econet—and Ernst and Young.

The documents show that MBCT, right from the start, intended to use Econet facilities, among them the Ecocash mobile money transfer platform and Ecobank to roll out the savings initiative to a million low income beneficiaries by 2015.

The concept by MBCT also shows that it would target some 75 percent of women as its beneficiaries using the Econet network, as is the case with the recently launched scheme.


Sacha Robinson, one of the partners in MBCT, expressed shock that Ecocash had gone ahead and launched a scheme without consulting him or his partner, Paul Hopley. Robinson said he learnt of the development when he read a newspaper report.

“I hoped this day (of the launch) would arrive at a time when we would have achieved partnership with Econet with a view to expand my proposed concept globally but the (news) article… indicates that we have been sidelined and my idea that myself and Paul Hopley worked on diligently with E & Y and Ecobank and Econet has been encroached, compromised and indeed appropriated,” said Robinson.

“I remind you that we have an agreement with Ernst & Young, specifically for this project and in partnership with Econet,” he added in an emailed letter to Ernst and Young’s Chenjerai Maziwisa on May 9.

Moral fight

He indicated that even if fighting the Strive Masiyiwa empire, which owns Econet, might be an uphill task, it was still an option they were considering, and described the alleged theft of their concept as “selfish, dishonest and harmful practice”. But he absolved Masiyiwa of any wrongdoing, accusing middle managers of the hijack instead.

Robinson said he picked up signs of plans to steal the idea some two years ago when Econet released a press release on the planned scheme, and claimed that he had all the correspondence regarding the details of the deal.

He warned that the alleged dishonesty by Econet management would undermine the mobile operator. “I will be seeking legal advice on how to deal with this apparent leak and seeking for this matter to be righted either way … we will state upfront that this is not a financial fight but a moral fight for what is right,” he said.

Correspondence from Maziwisa to potential partners in the project, written in February 2013, suggests that there were collaborations in setting up the scheme.

Brian Jerahuni of Ecobank wrote also to Robinson on March 13, 2013, acknowledging knowledge of the proposed concept and its potential. He said the involvement of Ernst and Young as the fund managers gave credibility to the project.

“If confirmation that Ernest and Young are the fund managers then it’s worth our consideration. We will need to be sure of the reputational risk of non-delivery by the fund (sic),” wrote Jerahuni.

He asked Robinson if they expected to use the Ecobank licence for fund mobilisation and lending and acknowledged that daily savings reflected in the concept by MBCT was a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe, adding that it “mirrors the informal savings rounds in which most women and informal traders participate daily”.

The documents also show that Ernst and Young prepared a confidential information memorandum on behalf of MBCT that shaped the mobile savings concept.


  • comment-avatar
    Unity of Purpose 7 years ago

    It will not help if you are to implement an idea without reputable mobile operator like econent. Better to talk them and work together coz many people will not use any other — people have trust in Econent and with your money you need to deal with trustworthy people full stop.

  • comment-avatar
    Mukanya 7 years ago

    Is day-dreaming patented?

  • comment-avatar
    todiizvazvo 7 years ago

    MCBT or whatever, stop tying to clutch to straws when u know actually u are not going to launch the idea. For you to be able to run such a scheme you need a banking licence, of which i dont think u have, you need mobile service, of which u dont have, u need a reputable stature, of which u are unknown. At the end of it u need to be adequately financed, of which i doubt since u are an NGO u rely on hand outs.Then what is u your motive? to steal peoples monies.nxaaa

  • comment-avatar
    Rich Driven 7 years ago

    If I read correctly, MBCT approached Ernst and Young to ensure integrity of the scheme. They then shared the idea with Econet to ensure that they get the mobile operator of repute. They signed agreements to cover everyone and approached a large bank, Ecobank, for storage of funds. I think these guys had their act together but Econet is simply a dictator. Thank God, they are not in politics although they now run the country and every penny in your pocket rotates inside Econet about 5 times before it goes out.

  • comment-avatar
    Rich Driven 7 years ago

    Econet Shenanigans Listed Briefly

    How Econet Does Business
    Bullying and Cruel Business Practice
    It is understood that Telecel, the country’s second largest cellphone company, wrote to Potraz on Tuesday raising concerns over poor connectivity between the country’s mobile phone operators following a recently launched Telecel promotion which resulted in tariffs being slashed by nearly 50% across all networks.
    This problem according to a statement released by Telecel yesterday started last week and is still obtaining.
    “Currently, Telecel subscribers are experiencing major challenges in calling Econet numbers. On average it is taking 20 attempts before one can get through,” said Telecel in a statement. “This lack of connectivity has nothing to do with the Telecel network capacity. All our interconnect links have been thoroughly tested and monitored and have proved to be congestion-free. Calls to other local destinations, including NetOne, TelOne and Africom, as well as to international operators, and calls in the reverse direction are going through without any problem.”
    Blatant Plagiarism
    We recently came across a very striking similarity between Econet Broadband ads and those Allen Solly (a retail chain in India). The Econet campaign was created by Young and Rubicam Johannesburg, which since last year has listed Econet Wireless as one of its major accounts – See more at: http://www.techzim.co.zw/2011/10/copied-work-the-econet-broadband-ad-campaign/#sthash.SxOb4yuQ.dpuf

    Econet doesn’t deny stealing ideas
    Econet’s Spencer Manguwa says if #twimbo devs are scared of @econetzimbabwe stealing ideas, they risk leaving ideas unexplored #ZimBroadband

    7:02 am – 6 Jun 2014
    1. Karizzy ‏@Itskarizma Jun 6
    @lskmakani @econetzimbabwe lol
    2. Delta Milayo ‏@deltandou Jun 6
    @lskmakani @LeviKabwato @econetzimbabwe shouldn’t he have assured them that Econet won’t steal their ideas? His remarks ain’t reassuring
    3. Delta Milayo ‏@deltandou Jun 6
    @lskmakani @LeviKabwato @econetzimbabwe why not say “Econet doesn’t do that”? Instead he doesn’t deny that the possibility of theft exists
    4. Delta Milayo ‏@deltandou Jun 6
    @lskmakani @LeviKabwato @econetzimbabwe anyway I get the developers anxiety. Econet is like an octopus with tentacles grabbing at errything
    5. MaTshabangu ‏@moyo_buhle Jun 6
    @lskmakani @LeviKabwato @econetzimbabwe meaning tht Econet does steal? Or not? Response givng rise to more questions. Not good for their PR
    10:59 pm – 6 Jun 2014 • Details
    6. Baynham Goredema ‏@bayhaus Jun 7
    @deltandou @lskmakani @levikabwato @vamukanya People def want are assurances. And why are they suspicious of @econetzimbabwe anyway
    7. LSK Makani ‏@lskmakani Jun 7
    @deltandou @LeviKabwato @econetzimbabwe not reassuring. I’m not sure he can reassure. It’s commercial jungle out there

    Econet Blatantly Cheats and Doesn’t Apologise

  • comment-avatar
    Tsano 7 years ago

    “There are striking similarities between the recently launched scheme and the concept that MBCT shared with staff from Ecobank—a subsidiary of Econet—and Ernst and Young.”

    Please take note: Ecobank is not a subsidiary of Econet.