Telecommunication giant Safaricom allegedly stole the ‘Thibitisha‘ programme from an innovator who submitted it through the Zindua Cafe programme, Kahawa Tungu has learnt.
Thibitisha is a software used on the Mpesa platform to curb direct deposits and remote withdrawals. Zindua platform is a web service created by Safaricom to allow submission of innovative ideas to the telco.
According to documents in our possession, the idea was first developed by Solut Technology Limited and submitted to Safaricom through Zindua Cafe on October 31, 2016. The idea was submitted using Mr Jimnoon Magolo’s credentials, who is a director and shareholder at Solut.
The idea was dubbed Wavu Application by the innovators.
“Our client is the creator of Wavu Application, a novel software solution innovated to, among others, curb direct deposits and remote withdrawals on the Mpesa platform, ensure Mpesa agents comply with KYC requirements laid out by Safaricom in relation to Mpesa transactions, prevent fraudulent activities through the Mpesa platform and facilitate efficient transactions on the Mpesa platform thereby minimizing the number of calls to Mpesa customer care,” reads in part a letter written to Safaricom CEO by Solut’s lawyer TLO Law Associates.
After a screening process by Safaricom, Solut engineers were invited by Safaricom to pitch their idea on November 11, 2016 almost a fortnight after submission. The pitch was attended by Solut directors and was facilitated by Safaricom’s Idah Gacheri, Reginald Tole, Felix and Stacy.
During the meeting, which according to Solut was recorded, it was discovered that Safaricom did not have an application similar to or an alternative to the Wavu Application, which was allegedly confirmed by a member of the Safaricom team.
However, a few days after the meeting, Safaricom’s Idah Gacheri wrote to Solut informing them that the programme could not be implemented further due to its high implementation cost. Also, contrary to previous revelations, Ms Gacheri said that Safaricom had alternative solutions to the problem at hand.
“You even advised our client to continue submitting transformative ideas, a clear testament to your insatiable appetite for entrepreneurial innovations; and a testament to an implicit concession to the transformative and innovative nature of Wavu Application idea whose implementation was defeated on grounds of its high implementation costs,” the letter reads on.
However, on November 20, 2017, Safaricom launched and implemented the Wavu Application under a new name, Thibitisha. The launch came as a shock to Solut, as it was a case of ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ of their programme by Safaricom.
“Thibitisha as currently implemented is an exact replica of Wavu Application,” says Solut through their lawyer.
Solut wrote to Safaricom severally lodging a complaint but never received a response until August 3, 2018, when Safaricom replied implying that there was a possibility that its team had been working on a similar idea prior to engaging them (Solut).
Safaricom in their response also indicated that Solut could have gotten the idea from Safaricom’s team that was working on it or external contributors.
The innovators have complained about Safaricom’s terms and conditions on the Zindua Cafe, which they say are used to exploit innovators following it’s close to monopoly business.
In the first paragraph of the terms and conditions, Safaricom indicates that it “reserves the right to modify the terms and conditions at any time”, meaning that innovators could lose their rights to the giant telco.
The innovators through their lawyer have already written to the Competition Authority of Kenya to address the question of abuse of dominance and monopoly buyer power.
They have also written to the Kenya Copyright Board and the Kenya Industrial Property Institute to address questions of contracts and violation of intellectual property.
The Communication Authority has also been roped in as the regulator of the main regulator in the communication industry.
Here are the letters:-