prepaid economy
Senegalese music start-ups race to be West Africa's Spotify

Senegalese start-ups are testing a fledgling market for online music platforms in French-speaking West Africa, where interest in digital entertainment is growing but a lack of credit cards has prevented big players from making inroads.
Mobile power payments and smart meters plug in Tanzanian homes

When Asteria Lymo saw her prepaid electricity meter was short of units, she grabbed her smartphone and bought some using Tigo Pesa, a local application that allows customers to pay their utility bills on their mobile phones.

“I simply transferred the money from my bank account into my phone to buy electricity,” said the 35-year-old mother of three. “It’s fast, easy to use, efficient and saves a lot of time and money.”

With 10,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $4.50), Lymo bought 28 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy - enough to power her home for one week. Previously, that would have meant standing in a queue for an hour to buy electricity coupons at a vending kiosk.

Lymo, who lives in the Kimara neighborhood of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, is among the many customers of state power supplier TANESCO who now use digital platforms to pay their bills.

A new study suggests that digital payment - whereby users shift to smart, prepaid metering systems and purchase a set amount of power electronically - not only helps customers but benefits utility companies and mini-grid providers too by reducing the costs of metering and credit operations.

As a result, digital payments are helping make off-grid power sources like solar and wind more economically viable.