Vodacom’s operations in South Africa, Tanzania, Lesotho, the DRC and Mozambique have all recently experienced extraordinary growth in network traffic. We have undertaken various measures to ensure that our network quality across the continent will not be compromised in the coming months. In South Africa, Vodacom will spend over R500 million within the space of two months to add network capacity during the national emergency lockdown period, to ensure customers continue to enjoy a seamless experience as more people work from home and use online platforms for schooling their children and for entertainment. Both Vodacom Tanzania and the DRC are prioritising network optimisation for areas that need improvement as well as network resilience. In Lesotho, equipment is being purchased to increase capacity in identified hotspots and, in Mozambique, plans have been initiated to provide additional support to all critical sites.
With many children unable to attend school in person, e-Learning becomes even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vodacom e-School in South Africa, a free curriculum-aligned service for subscribers, has seen user registrations on the platform increase to over 1 million. In March alone, we saw over 100 000 new registrations, a four-fold increase in the number of new registrations on the platform compared with February. In addition to providing special bundles to universities so that students can access e-learning platforms, we have expanded our zero-rated offering to all public schools, universities and T-Vet colleges across the country to ensure that students enrolled into these institutions will be able to access relevant information for free via these portals.
Vodacom Tanzania continues to promote its free education platform for students and Vodacom DRC offers VodaEduc, a zero-rated learning platform. Vodacom Mozambique is working on providing free internet for the government’s e-learning portal and free access to university portals with the Minister of Science and Technology. Finally, Vodacom Lesotho is providing free data access to 101 schools, with plans to connect an additional 59 schools by July 2020.
Supporting Small and Micro Businesses
It is critical that small and micro businesses across the continent remain supported during the pandemic. In South Africa, Vodacom is extending loans to SMEs to assist them with cash flow challenges. Vodacom Tanzania is currently assessing the risk of SMEs shutting down, and a payment plan will be put in place for customers who need support. In the DRC, additional data allocations have been provided to SMEs and work from home services have been extended to all Vodacom enterprise customers in the region. Vodacom Mozambique is looking to introduce special work at home packages for SMEs. Vodacom Lesotho has identified vulnerable sectors for special assistance and is also considering providing a combination of payment holidays or discounts to SMEs over a four month period.
Maintaining M-PESA platform, enabling cashless payments and financial services
Vodacom’s operations in Lesotho, Mozambique, DRC and Tanzania have introduced various changes to make it easier to use the M-PESA service during state lockdowns. These include increasing daily wallet limits, waiving some of the P2P fees and merchant payments fees paid by customer, reducing transaction fees and promoting the use of M-PESA over in-shop purchases to limit interactions between people and curb the spread of the virus. As an example, Vodacom Lesotho has implemented zero fees for merchant transactions up to the value of M50.