Vodacom Lesotho says that it will be building on its history of supporting education through its School Connectivity Progamme, which began in 2016, with the Pay School Fees with M-Pesa Campaign. To date the operator has provided free internet connectivity to 90 schools as part of the program and has made a commitment to connect 200 schools by the end of this financial year.
Lesotho High School, which collected the highest proportion of fees through M-Pesa, received a Vodacom branded container, 12 computers with software (Windows and Microsoft Office), desks and chairs, as well as WiMax internet for six months. Vodacom’s platform helps schools collect and manage school fee payments with greater ease and security.
As we have observed on a number of occasions, mobile operators benefit from engaging in public service initiatives, even if they do not produce net profits. This is because they have been shown to improve the operators’ public image, which in the long run aids customer retention and acquisition.
In this case, however, it appears that there are benefits in store for Vodacom that could be more substantial, or at least more measurable in concrete terms. The School Connectivity Programme enables, and indeed encourages, students in Lesotho to pay their school fees through a mobile money partner—M-Pesa, which is widely popular throughout Africa. In this way, the operator could be helping to form usage habits that will pay dividends later, as students become adults and use mobile money for transactions in their own lives—presumably also through Vodacom, since the positive brand association will have been formed early. We have written frequently about the value to operators of the youth demographic, because of its propensity to form lifelong loyalties.
Secondarily, providing internet connectivity, albeit in school, is likely to help accustom students to data usage, which they will continue later. This is especially important in the case of students who do not have internet access at home.