Making cents of Econet’s new Elevate initiative


We’ve been trying to understand Econet’s new initiative, Elevate. The program was launched over the weekend in Harare. Econet said in a press release that this is about targeting the youth for empowerment. The words “youth” and “empowerment” are ofcourse meaningless thanks to the abuse by politicians, so we’ll avoid them and use simpler words like “young people.”

What exactly is Elevate about

Basically Elevate is Econet’s recognition of Zimbabwe’s population in relation to their business. The last census carried out a few years ago revealed that a staggering 77% of the total 13 million people are below the age of 35.

With Elevate, the company wants to be aware of the needs of this customer segment and to tailor products and initiatives to these needs.


When you look at it from this angle, it’s very clear how the 4 things the company plans to do will help its business, as well as the young people targeted by Elevate.

1. Design product packages for young people

Referred to as Mix n Match by the company, the promise is that packages will be designed to suit the needs of young people. We’re guessing lots of social media bundles for the young people. Maybe for data guzzling apps like Snapchat and YouTube. But they could also combine the entertainment stuff with some education type content on sites like Coursera, Wikipedia and so on.

2. Keep them on the network creating content

Competitions are a good way to keep customers from going to the competition, and they are also a great way to generate commercial activity on the network. The first competition the company is running is one called Snap, Post and Win. Econet wants to cash in on the growth of photo and video sharing by the Born Free and ESAP generations on social media. While older smartphones users (Chimurenga generation and older folk) rarely post pictures of themselves online, young people actively do as part of daily life when they can afford to.

If Econet can create data bundles to enable more snapping by ordinary young people (as opposed to just the minority rich kids), more photos and videos online means more Zimbabweans buy and use data to consume them. Some new Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram stars could be birthed in the process and everyone looking to follow these stars would need to buy data to enjoy the content.

3. Incorporate them into the Econet value chain as agents and on-demand service providers

Econet is referring to this as the “Rise n Shine” component of Elevate. The irresistible “Do you want to be your own boss?” offer is presented.

Remember our 2015 article “The uberification of Econet and its new startup Technites“? It seems the company never quite figured how to scale it. While the Technites concept is still alive, we haven’t seen much of it on the ground.

We suspect this Elevate component is a return of Technites, but it may offer more on-demand type services. Just to give a summary of what Technites is – basically, Econet trains people to install services it provides (mostly IoT stuff for the smart homes, cars and health devices sold by its cumii subsidiary) and then makes these skilled individuals available on demand via an app when a customer buys or needs support. Somewhat like Uber, without the cars (and drama ofcourse 😉 )

Additional services these Elevate members could provide may include installation services for Kwese TV, maybe an Airbnb type service, delivery services for stuff bought on Ownai (like Uber but instead of delivering people, they deliver packages), or insert-any-uber-like-service-you-can-imagine-Econet-would-want-to-do.

4. Help them grow to help Econet business grow

This is being called “Learn and Grow” by Econet. The concept is simple really. What ever these own-bosses are doing with Econet can only succeed if the individuals succeed and grow. Aligned incentives! It’s in Econet’s interests to ensure the young people are taught business skills and mentored in order to grow their businesses.

Our take

It’s certainly smart for Econet to deliberately target young people especially with an initiative that doesn’t just treat them as customers, but aims to grow them economically. It fits well with the company’s “Look up, the future is bright” campaign started last year. Young people are indeed the business’s future high value customers. They are taking care of their future in a good selfish way.

As a service provider, Econet can easily position itself as being more aware of the needs of the majority of the population. In fact, by deliberating trying to be aware of the needs of young people, Econet has the opportunity to uncover insights that companies not looking will not see.

Going through the Elevate website however, it’s evident that the launch of the program was somewhat rushed. When you look at the presentation of the 4 ways the company plans to deliver it, it’s as if there’s little on the ground to match this talk. The Mix n Match product offering for example is not there yet. Econet seems to be in the talking/planning stage of Elevate. One doesn’t come away from the site, or the announcement, with a strong sense of something tangible they can participate in immediately.

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