Implementing Virtual Farmer's Market in Zambia

Posted on 16th May 2023

The mobile market in Africa is rapidly expanding and is second only to Asia in terms of size. With half of its one billion inhabitants already owning a mobile phone, the adoption of more advanced mobile technology for tasks such as banking and agribusiness is on the rise. However, rural smallholder farmers still face a range of challenges, especially when it comes to accessing markets that offer better prices for their crops.

To address this, the VFM app, Maano, has been launched as a new initiative by the WFP, leveraging the advancements in information and communications technology to create new business opportunities and improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers.

In association with PayGo with their partner World Food Programme

  • Active Small
    Holding Farmers
  • Metric
  • USD
    Agricultural Produce

A popular choice

For the core banking system, the team was clear that it wanted a universal banking system with a modern service-oriented architecture and API connectivity. After evaluating a few vendors, the bank decided to select Oracle’s Flexcube core banking system mainly due to its stability and strong presence in the Zambian market.

Out of the 17 banks in Zambia, at least 11 banks were reportedly using Flexcube, which made it a popular choice for core banking systems in the market. The hardware, including the data centre, was also provided by Oracle. As an implementation partner, the bank chose Techurate, given its strong track record of implementations in Zambia and the presence of a local team in the country. The other factors that went in Techurate’s favour were that in addition to being a Flexcube core banking implementation specialist, the firm also offered a suite of digital channels solutions.

The ZICB team had significant pressure from the Central Bank to open the bank at the earliest opportunity in order to service the customers of the previous bank who were carried over into ZICB. The bank’s IT team involved Techurate right from the beginning in January 2018 when it started designing a detailed blueprint of the system requirements and architecture.

While Techurate was formally employed only in April 2018, this meticulous process of designing a detailed blueprint allowed the bank and Techurate to complete the implementation of the core banking system and make basic banking services available to the existing customers within just six weeks in May 2018. One of the other aspects that contributed to this rapid deployment was the out of the box implementation with minimal customisation and no major data migration activity. For the existing customers of the previous bank, only the end of day balances was carried forward into the new core banking system. Additionally, to minimise the cost, the low-value bank customers from the previous bank were migrated to an e-wallet platform, developed by Techurate, which could meet all the customers’ service requests while avoiding the costs associated with onboarding these customers to the core banking system.

Phased implementation

In parallel, the ZICB team and Techurate continued implementation of digital banking and agency banking modules in a phased manner. ZICB also engaged in a joint venture between Techurate and Probase, a local supplier specializing in collections solutions for statutory pensions, taxes and interbank payments. The solution provided by the joint venture strengthened ZICB’s solutions, offering online connectivity between the internal banking systems as well as with public servers such as the revenue services.

The modern digital banking system provided ZICB with integration capabilities to partner with various fintech companies and other entities like Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) providing money transfers. The bank’s strategy is to limit its branch network to nine branches, including its two existing branches, for the next five years.

Instead, the bank will focus more on the agency model. It already has a successful partnership with one of the biggest agencies in Zambia and is in advanced stages of integrating with direct selling agents for the distribution of its retail offerings.

For its corporate banking customers, the bank is in the process of partnering with one of the largest banks in the country where a ZICB customer may access ZICB services by walking into the partner bank branches. As aptly cited by Mwangala Muyoyeta, the Head of IT at ZICB, technology plays “a pivotal role” in the success of these strategic initiatives for the bank.