Business

The Unintended Consequence of Bonga Points

There is no doubt in our minds that bonga points like other loyalty programs is a novelty and contributes towards customer satisfaction and retention. The extent to which only affect micr0-economic factors of a company. However, when Safaricom made bonga points transferable to other subscribers and redeemable phones and computer accessories (elastic goods), they exposed the loyalty program to the law of unintended consequences  as the effects spilled over to the macro-economic stratum. Overnight, the demand of bonga points skyrocket and it becomes a luxury good as it attracts direct convertibility to hard cash.

Today, there is a ‘black market’ for bonga points in exchange for cash, the PMK page on Facebook runs competitions payable via bonga points. When used as a medium of exchange, it becomes a currency, a parallel currency much like Bitcoin.  Safaricom will now be facilitating a currency that the Central Bank of Kenya has no control over. If more people exchange  their Kenyan Shilling for bonga points, the demand of the shilling plummets and bonga points takes over as the dominant currency with Safaricom as our central bank. The question begs, what will Safaricom do with the high demand commodity they created.

Think of the possibilities if online stores decide to accept bonga points,  we have a new currency backed by the cost of making a call. Given the resources availed  to research and development of telecommunication equipment we can safely assume it will be a stable currency. And given the price volatility of elastic goods we expect the demand to fluctuate, the heck it can even be traded at the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

I now understand why Safaricom shutdown the bonga points exchange short code owned by Onfon Media, it would convert it into a financial institution with a dominant unregulated “currency”.  And as it stands, under Article 231 of the Kenyan constitution, the Central Bank of Kenya has the sole responsibility for issuing currency, formulating monetary policy and promoting price stability.

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