Financial Payments: Catalyst for Growth in Africa

Africa needs innovative ways to pay and get paid across all channels and all devices. Payments have to be made easy and secure, allowing businesses to take card payments, mobile payments and even cross border payments. Enabling businesses to accept all payment methods and currencies will support growth and financial inclusion. In the words of Mr. Lacina Koné, the director general of the Smart Africa secretariat 2019, “Africa, considered to be the youngest continent in the world, has a great need for a catalyst platform in order to transform itself into a single digital market, for that to happen, we have to connect our countries and interconnect cross-borders, innovate our approach of social economic development, in order to transform and propel our continent towards a knowledge based economy in this 21st century.”

Digital platforms are slowly changing the access to financial services even for those in the deepest parts of Africa. However, millions of Africa still don’t have access to the services, and those who do are sometimes faced with barriers. The use of payment platforms is low in sectors like retail trade, hospitality and even others. Part of the reasons include poor connectivity, limited knowledge about these innovations and reluctance to accept some of these innovations. In addition to that, there is need to improve existing infrastructure to ensure constant connectivity in order to make the e-payment methods efficient.

The issue of data security is also holding back the usage of e-commerce products despite their big potential. We have seen several initiatives and campaigns to embrace the use of digital payments. Moves like the world bank alliance aimed at promoting fintech services for financial inclusion are greatly deepening the cashless economy.despite these efforts, the response from the public and the business community has been slow at taking up these initiatives and other government initiatives geared at transforming the African digital economy.

Countries like Kenya are enjoying the positive reception of digital payments in several services. In the 5th Transform Africa Summit organized by the Smart Africa in Kigali-Rwanda, the President of the Republic of Kenya his excellency Uhuru Kenyatta mentioned that the use of mobile banking system M-Pesa has widely been used to pay for quite a number of services that includes, electricity, water, transport, shopping and even paying school fees. I strongly believe that this can ripple to the neighbouring countries and ultimately the whole of Africa, forming a single digital market.

Imagine you are Rwandese living in the diaspora and you would like to support your family and friends back in Rwanda by paying their bills. Currently, you only have 2 options (1) either to send the money to a mobile money wallet or (2) to use a classic bank transfer after which the money will be cashed out for bill payment or sometimes used from the wallet. This makes bill payment process in Africa expensive and very inconveniencing. There are enormous delays and interoperability issues attached to the current ways of payment. There is lack of real time models of exchange in the continent to the rest of the world. It is vis-a-vis HeptaPay a solution that interfaces mobile money accounts with card payments thereby enabling tens of thousands African merchants to be able to receive online payments, diaspora inflows and VISA/Mastercard transactions instantly and directly into their mobile money accounts.

This is the number one direct bill payment solution for Africa providing three elements of value; Cost, interoperability and Timeliness. You can now pay electricity, water and even airtime at your convenience using a debit or credit card. Certainly, the uses of technology are very innovative but at the same time, it must be based on the realities in the society to address existing challenges at an affordable cost. I believe African companies like Hepta Analytics are at the verge of lifting the barrier of digital payments across the continent. The first step in deployment has been started in Rwanda ranging on a simple use where people see real value. Imagine a case where someone is in the middle of a tender submission document due in 30 minutes and power goes off in the house because their tokens have been depleted. At the comfort of their home, they will type on their browser, buy electricity, receive a text message and refill their tokens within a minute or two and still meet their deadline.

HeptaPay seeks to connect over 100 local payment methods in East Africa to be able to accept payments and issue payouts to customers all over the world. The fact that people can naturally use their phones, with the 79% mobile penetration in Africa, there is a great need for such solutions that have no difficulty in use and work with 100% certainty. Little by little, people will adopt and continue to use such platforms which will ultimately ripple throughout the entire region.