Cassava modelled around giant Chinese firm

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Business Writer 
The vision behind Cassava Smartech is to create a technology company similar to China’s internet-related services provider, Tencent Holdings Limited, according to Cassava Group chief executive officer, Darlington Mandivenga.

Tencent, one of the largest companies in the world, is a corporate behemoth with a market capitalisation, at its peak, of over $700 billion and over one billion users across the globe.

Tencent is a Chinese investment holding company whose subsidiaries provide media, entertainment, internet and mobile phone value-added services and operate online advertising services in China.

Speaking on the sidelines of an investors’ forum in Harare, Mandivenga said Cassava Smartech — which plans to list on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange shortly — was not trying to emulate M-PESA of Kenya.

“M-PESA was our model when we were developing EcoCash, our mobile money service, but we have since moved on from there,” he said.

“Our model now includes so many more services that M-PESA does not offer. Today our approach is that of Tencent; we are more than just EcoCash,” he said, adding that they were leveraging their platform to include solutions for every aspect of people’s lives.

Mandivenga said an example was “Cassava On Demand”, which has developed transport and logistics services such as Vaya and Technites.

The entire Cassava Smartech business includes multisectoral portfolios in the areas of fintech, funeral and vehicle insurance, education, health, farming and e-commerce, among many other businesses that leverage technology.

This is in line with Tencent, which also provides cutting-edge financial technology and seamless mobile payment solutions helping support the development of smart cities, smart transport and smart retail.

It will be interesting if Cassava will also follow on Tencent’s footsteps as the giant company’s core revenue stream at the moment is gaming. In fact, it is the world’s largest videogame publisher by revenue.

Forecasts points to a future where mobile gaming is expected to be larger than all traditional platforms for games (such as console and PC) and Tencent has positioned itself at the forefront of this race.

Another area that Cassava is yet to venture into is social-messaging, an area which Tencent dominates with its highly popular social-messaging app WeChat.

The move by Cassava is in line with global trends as investors have long bet on technology transforming people’s lives around the world, with the largest companies being the biggest beneficiaries of this trend.

Mandivenga said Cassava was now the largest private creator of jobs in the economy.

“We have created employment for more than 45 000 EcoCash agents, 5 000 Technites and close to 10 000 Vaya drivers. That is 60 000 jobs, and we continue to create more on a daily basis. This is how jobs and livelihood opportunities are created,” Mandivenga said.

Cassava Smartech plans to list on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange following its unbundling from Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited and following the publication of a detailed circular outlining the demerger plans.

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