Case Study of Prepaid Services at Scale in Ancestral Africa

Case Study of Prepaid Services at Scale in Ancestral Africa

I am decoupling another piece to bring a key lesson out: Africa had used prepaid services for centuries at scale. A good example is on the village palm wine tapper.

Wine tapping is one of the riskiest jobs in ancestral Africa: they always fall down from the palm trees. Because of that near-certainty that accidents will always happen to palm wine tappers, tradition has it that a tapper will pre-pay his kinsmen for the inconveniences and lost wages of entering bushes looking for him in future should an accident occur (his wife has reported that he did not return home as expected).

So, every minor or major week (in Igbo culture Nigeria, a minor week is four days but a major one is 8 days, rotating Eke, Orie, Afo and Nkwo), all the wine tapped by the wine tapper will be brought to the village square where kinsmen will consume it for free [four days make a week in Igbo and those four days rotate the market days. Some communities have major markets every 8 days and minor every four days]. Yes, on that day, everyone drinks for free, knowing that you are drinking for a potential loss of wage if something happens to this wine tapper in future.

So, next time you read “innovation on prepaid….”, laugh. We did that centuries ago as I explained.

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