At the time, 2018, Tigo was amongst the largest telcos in Tanzania with over 13.5 million subscribers, and over 300,000 employees spread across customer service representatives, mobile money merchants, sales agents and distributors. The company has since been acquired by Axian Telecom.
Wakala is the Swahili term for agent, and most commonly used in Tanzania. Mobile network operators and banks often use wakalas as an extension of their field force. A majority of them are foot solders, often working in busy cities and towns, doing various tasks like SIM registration, mobile money and airtime vending.
While we had a number electronic registration tools in the market, our research showed that few were efficient, and the user experience was wanting. These pain points presented an opportunity for improvement - or perhaps a totally new direction.
This concept, dubbed Wakala Plus, seeks to answer a key question. How might we design a product that is dedicated to this special user. A product that is built for and with the wakala, from the ground up.
In the past wakalas would carry out registrations using physical forms, which would later be dropped off at the MNOs offices together with copies of identification documents. This often resulted in rather inaccurate and dirty data, which also posed a great risk as the networks had now introduced mobile money products (M-pesa, TigoPesa, Airtel Money).
For this reason there was a lot of pressure from the authorities, to improve the quality of data, and more importantly to boost efficiency in electronic registration.
We had at this point seen the development of a few electronic registration platforms that allowed for capture and submission of data in real time. However, most of these tools were created from a purely technical/developer perspective which resulted in rather dull and often unpleasant experience for the wakala, and ultimately the customer.
However, all these were assumptions at this stage, and served as a hypothesis at best. A good place to start.
Field research is probably my favorite part of HCD. partly because I love the outdoors. We spent a few days out on street corners in downtown Dar es Salaam talking to wakalas - under the scorching summer sun. We observed and even shadowed the agents whenever it was possible without scaring off the customers.
The reality on the ground was stark. The pain was real. Our empathy quickly turned into sympathy. Nonetheless, this was a pitch and time and resources were scarce so we quickly set out to make sense of the data we collected.
I then quickly moved to user flows which informed the initial set of low fidelity wireframes (See below)
We had a wishlist of features that we thought would add to the experience and one of the key ones was the ability for the agent to to see their total commissions at any time. This section of the app also allowed them to request for an early pay-out depending on the balance.
The Tigo Wakala+ platform sought out to deliver these objectives through an experience that was designed for and with the actual users, and I think this prototype ticked a lot of those boxes.
Sadly this was the end of the road for Wakala Plus, but it was a fun project for the team and I with quite a few learnings despite all. As a UX practitioner and designer, my hope is that this can serve as inspiration for anyone looking to create a similar solution.