My experience with Bonga by Safaricom

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The mobile phone. Never in recent history has a piece of technology disrupted life as known in the way a cell phone has. So many facets of life have changed almost “overnight* with the introduction of this nifty little pocket-based devices. Texts quickly replaced letters and conversations became way shorter. Abbreviations became an almost acceptable part of everyday life and with the advancement of internet-based connectivity, the world has continued to rapidly shrink and access to information now sits in your pocket: A smart device and internet bundle away.

Gone are the days when communication with your family upcountry involved letters sent through Posta, a relative/neighbour heading there or deposited with a bus driver for collection on the other side. I doubt that some of us have ever seen how a real MoneyGram transaction was done thanks purely to the advancement of Mpesa, the mobile money transfer service that we have all come to appreciate.

Now recently, I have come across a product that is hellbent on disrupting chat, money transfer and e-commerce as we know it. It is being developed by the young, cool and fun team at Safaricom Alpha. The platform is called Bonga. I was lucky to be given access to the beta version (They are now going through a public beta period so it’s easier to be onboarded), and so far, I must admit that I really like what I have been able to experience.

Bonga is a cool and innovative solution that puts all your communication and money needs in one fantastic, easy to use and reliable app. Never have you been able to chat and send money from the same, locally developed app. II am quite pleased with the fact that I do not have to do the perennial multitasking of having to cram/ write-down numbers and switch between screens/apps to be able to send money. It’s all there. In two clicks or less, you can send money, request for some and continue chatting. Isn’t that a breeze?

The sign-up process was a breeze (once I’d been whitelisted). It’s a painless process that takes less than a minute to complete. At fast glance, everything is well placed and it’s very easy to understand. There is a slider on the left to initiate your Mpesa transactions while on the left there is a top menu bar and a nifty little button to initiate individual chats. I have been made to understand that whitelisting has been made easier now and all you have to do is send a DM to the Bonga twitter account @bonga_ke with your phone number and this shall be done within an hour.

Speaking of chats, one of the most interesting twists in how Bonga handles chats is the ability to request or send money from within the chat itself. You do not need to leave the individual chat to fulfil that promise that you’ve made that person. Just click on the send key and specify the amount and just like that, you are done. I was actually quite blown away by the request feature. Think of it as a cool new way to ask for money. Be it a payment, a quick bailout loan from a friend or a refund for funds borrowed from you, your request is a tap away. Hopefully, this feature will be expanded to group chats too. This would make a lot of sense to chamas and such like causes that need to collect money from multiple members.

You can’t reinvent the wheel, but you can innovate around its utility. I feel like Bonga have done just that. They have re-imagined our communication needs and strived to make life easier for us as we go about our day to day life. Communication is now more than just a fun little land of just forwards and memes, it’s about growing and doing more. It’s not just all talk, Its business, its community, it’s you. This is more than just a chat app in my opinion. It is an all-encompassing platform that considers my social and economic needs and gels them in one fun and easy to use platform. I feel like the possibilities of this expansion on this platform are endless if well thought out and implemented.

In terms of security, all the chats are highly encrypted. This is highly important especially seeing that the app encompasses Mpesa as an integral feature. I was greatly at peace knowing that my communication can not be seen by anyone that does not need to be seeing it. In this age of cyber fraud and all, one can never be too careful in their interactions online. Knowing that you are protected is a great relief.

All in all, my interaction with the app has been very pleasant. I can’t wait for the platform to have more users on board. I noticed that you can invite your friends to join and this automatically whitelists them. However, these invites are limited to only five per person. Maybe with time they will increase this number so that an individual is able to invite as many of their friends as they deem possible. This is essential especially in the building of communities. You can’t really build a community without your friends now, can you?

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