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Does advertising pay? Money transfers for the unbanked people of Lesotho

Nov. 19, 2019 4 min read

This article reviews various platforms in which the ‘unbanked’ people in Lesotho access money, assuming money being sent from outside Lesotho and it doesn’t include mobile money send via cell phones. That will be a debate for another day.

In 2017, I helped one of my friends who lives in Botswana by giving money to his relative who was travelling from Maseru to Botswana.  A day later my friend told me that he would use postal services to pay me.

If he had asked me of options, I would not have thought of sending money via the post. I had forgotten about this mode of transferring money, maybe because it is not being fiercely advertised in Lesotho.

Two days later he sent me a text message with details to use to withdraw money from the post. I only had to produce my passport as a way to identify myself, and the text with the sender’s details. A few minutes later I received my money.

I was in the post office banking hall for less than 15 minutes. On a scale of 1 to 3, I would give the postal services 1 if I am to use the number of customers inside the banking hall as the proxy to test the strength of advertising efforts. I am discounting other factors such as the cost of doing business, the location and the target market.

I think I have seen only one advertisement selling the services of Lesotho Postal Services, it was mimicked ‘Poso Nkisetse’, where the advert showed that one can send heavy luggage via postal services, and one will find it ahead at the local destination. Maybe I haven’t paid enough attention to notice another advert on sending money via the post.

Recently, I had an opportunity to use Western Union services. One of my cousins wanted me to buy flowers for a bereaved family to show her support as she was not able to attend the funeral. She advised that she would send money through the Western Union services.

When I went in to collect the money I was told I need to bring in a water bill or letter from the chief to confirm my residence. I guess this is in line with ‘know your customer requirements’.

I was disappointed that they don’t consider a lease as a form of residential confirmation. I didn’t have the time to collect the letter from the chief. I ended up using my money to buy the flowers.

A month later I was penniless and I remembered I still have money to collect. I was afraid they might say the money has been returned to the owner, as I have had this experience with some of the mobile money transfers; but not so with Western Union.

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I waited in the queue for less than 30 minutes and I received my money. I noticed that the customers in this banking hall were nationals from different countries. So I assume it is an international brand, or maybe it is being marketed well at an international level. On a scale of 1 to 3, I would also give this service provider 1 if we are using number of customers inside the hall as a proxy to determine the strength of advertising efforts.

Day in, day out, I have often seen people queuing outside a local supermarket. I have since learnt that they are queuing to receive money send by friends or relatives from outside Lesotho. Given the long queues I have seen, not just in Maseru but in other districts as well, I am confident that this service is well advertised in and outside the country.  

I also applaud it for making it possible for the locals to receive money from their loved ones who are labouring hard in the neighbouring countries.

I have a friend who likes to say “If you don’t want to pay me, tell me you have sent me money via that supermarket. I won’t bother to collect it”. I guess the long queues don’t entice her. 

Ironically, I saw an advert about this service, at the back windscreen of a taxi. Then it rang a bell that this service uses taxis as one of the platforms to advertise. I bet it can be seen by many people hence the service attracts multitudes of the unbanked people.

Although I can’t quote the advert verbatim, it went read something like ‘there are no long ques’.

Maybe at the time of crafting the advert that was the selling point. But this advert does not mirror the current situation on the ground. At least in Lesotho for I have always been amazed by the long queues in the supermarkets where people queue from as early as 7AM until they obviously look tired even from a by passer.

I am yet to confirm the minimum time people usually stand in the queues for as I have neither used this service nor had I talked to people who have used it. On a scale of 1 to 3, I would give it 3 if one uses the number of customers inside the ‘banking hall’ as the proxy of advertising efforts.

Given these three scenarios, I believe advertising pays. Maybe the Lesotho Postal Services can take a leave off its competitors in as far as reaching the unbanked with money transfers and starts to advertise to the locals.

Blow the horn to say yes it is possible to send and receive money through the Lesotho Postal Services. As a patriotic citizen, I assume this approach will increase the market share of the postal services and bring the much needed revenue for our fatherland. 

From the customer’s point of view, this will widen their options, help in reducing the queues and free time for the unbanked people to engage in other meaningful and resourceful activities. 

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