Very few people in Congo have a cell phone contract, and I certainly don’t know anyone who does. Most people get a 325 CFA Franc (0.50 Euro or 0.60 USD) SIM card and recharge the credit when it runs out. There are about five carriers and some people have a SIM card for each carrier, and a lot of phones in Congo have two slots for SIM cards.
You can recharge by either getting a scratch card and you enter the 14 digit pin with a recharge code interspersed with a series of #’s and *’s . I find that irritating, so I go the other route, with the sap-sap guys. They walk around sometimes with red or yellow aprons, depending on the carrier, but mostly always carry credit for all the companies.
Sap-sap is a deformation from zap-zap, because if you go to these guys and ask them for a sap-sap, all you do is give them your phone number and the amount you want recharged on your phone, and they send you–or zap you–the credit. You get a text message 4 seconds later on your phone informing you of your new credit.
No hassle, no bill paying, no overdraft charges, no rollover minutes, no text message limits, no air time limitations, no customer service, nothing. Walk up, say hi, give a guy your phone number and amount, and voilà. It’s super efficient.
Kind of like the system of public transportation around the cent-cent communal taxis. They swarm around the city, honking constantly in short beeps to let you know they are not a regular taxi but a communal taxi. You hold your arm out, hop in, and whenever you’re near where you want to be, you tell them to stop, hop out and give them 150 CFA Francs (0.25 EUR or 0.30 USD). Efficient, no parking, no worrying about gas, locking the car, locking your keys in your car, where did you park your car, paying for parking (as if), no nothing. Simple and efficient and ubiquitous.