It's Time for Telecoms to Start Investing in MoMo Vendor Security

A system like MoMo (aka mobile money) cannot exist in the United States, at least not as it is practiced in Ghana.  I'm making this assertion as someone who grew up stateside, and I believe that few people who have actually resided in America would argue that statement.  If in the States you had people on the roadside acting as mini-banking institutions without ample security, they would be robbed regularly.  However the Gateway to Africa possesses a vigilante culture which deters many of the types of small-time thieves that are in abundance across the Atlantic.

But then of course there are also those of the don't-give-AF variety that can be found in any country.  Such individuals may well be at their all-time peak considering that popular movies, television shows and videogames in which murderers, robbers and other violent criminals are presented as protagonists are also at an all-time high.  And yes, most of this content is in fact coming from the West, but Ghana has its issues also.  For example any psychologist worth his salt will tell you repetition, like repeatedly hearing the same phrase over and over, has an influential effect on the brain. So then for instance if one of the most-popular songs in the country has the word "murder" mentioned six times within four-line span, logically that is going stick in listeners' minds, especially those who enjoy the song regularly.  So taking such realities into consideration, it shouldn't surprise anyone that even the relatively-peaceful Ghana appears as if it is becoming more violent.

The spot in Kumasi where earlier this month a small-scale bank agent was
murdered by armed robbers.

So while browsing for headlines during the last few months to be featured on GHfind News, I've come across two cases of MoMo vendors (one in Techiman and the other near Koftown), a roadside bank agent (in Kumasi) and of course the policeman and innocent bystander in the bullion van heist (in Accra) who have been murdered by armed robbers.  In fact three of those incidents occurred this very month.  So needless to say, being a MoMo vendor is an inherently-dangerous job in modern Ghana.

Meanwhile, it is also pretty common knowledge that MTN in particular is profiting greatly from the proliferation of the MoMo system.  Even Vodafone Cash, which relatively-few people actually use, is still in the game and making moves.  And Tigo for instance also has their own MoMo movement going on.

It is also generally understood that the overwhelming majority of the vendors which make this system profitable aren't direct employees of these telecoms.  So on one hand you can say that, contractually speaking, the telecoms are not obligated to protect these individuals, as they tend to do some of their own official customer service representatives who in some cases also facilitate mobile-money transactions.  But at the same time, let me reiterate that arguably the primary reason this system has proven so effective is because you can withdraw money like anywhere, due to the fact that there are so many vendors.  So then it becomes like hey telecommunication companies, let's do the right thing.

In other words, some kind of system should be instituted by the telecoms in the name of protecting vendors.  Not being a security expert myself, I won't get too wordy in terms of presenting my own suggestions.  But it would have to be one that is far-reaching given the  sheer numbers of vendors, who as of late 2020 come up to about 200,000 entities.  So straight off the top of my head, what comes to mind is something like insurance.

Granted, MTN already has such a scheme in place which is said to provide "GH¢500.00... to help defray hospital bills", which coupled with general National Health Insurance should be more than enough if a vendor gets sick.  But in terms of being shot or seriously injured by armed robbers that doesn't appear to be enough money, especially when you take into consideration psychological trauma, structural damage to the kiosk or shop, etc.

But that noted, what I'm speaking to is something more akin to theft insurance.  Granted, a system like that would by all means attract fraudsters, a group of individuals whom telecoms are already have to contend with.  But again, the people who actually specialize in conceptualizing such systems should be able to put something together.

And on that note, it also probably wouldn't be a bad idea if they provided some type of security stipend to vendors, i.e. monies or resources that can be used to invest in their security.  I would presume that most vendors aren't generating enough income from MoMo transactions to invest in proper security - for instance upgrading a kiosk to the point where they can remain inside while keeping the door closed and locked.  Or for some of bigger transactors may even consider hiring a security guard proper.  Indeed if the telecoms did go about actually putting something like a security stipend or grant into place, the amount provided to respective vendors would likely tie directly into how much income said representative is generating.

CONCLUSION

Or if nothing else, the telecommunications' companies should at least be willing to pay the funeral costs and what have you of vendors who are murdered in the line of duty by armed robbers.  And if they are not, the government should perhaps consider forcing them to do so.  Yes, MTN, Vodafone and the rest may have in fact created jobs by instituting the mobile-money system.  But I have yet to come across anyone who says they're making a financial killing engaged in this endeavor.  Rather news reports indicate that it is the revenue of the telecoms themselves that are going up.  So if one of their vendors pays the ultimate price in the process of enriching them, these companies should be compelled to make a notable sacrifice in return.

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