As the world considers Africa to be the next frontier due to its growing population, smartphone penetration rate & increased internet usage, many international brands have been quick to capitalise on the burgeoning opportunities happening on the continent.
The major problem for these online stores is that cash still remains king on the continent, with over half of the transactions taking place offline. The current online payment options do not financially serve this market, and this turns the consumer away from making online purchases.
Omoniyi Kolade is CEO of Seerbit, a payments gateway for businesses. He shares his thoughts on Africa’s payments sector, and what needs to happen for the continent to go cashless.
Tell us more about Seerbit?
Seerbit’s uniqueness comes from a deep-rooted understanding of Africa’s business landscape and our approach to solving the barriers that exist within this sector. As the world pushes for a digital ecosystem, 90 per cent of Africa’s MSMEs still operate offline. Even with the digital boom, Africa risks getting left behind. Africa’s commerce sector is booming and remaining offline prevents these businesses from scaling and efficiently using their resources to build bigger and better businesses.
Seerbit’s solution exists to empower merchants with the payment tools that meet them at the point of their needs and helps them to achieve their business goals. A core element of our mission is bridging the gap between online and offline commerce. Our mantra is payment without boundaries – helping all types of businesses on the continent to scale their operations online and contribute to Africa’s economic growth.
What are some of Seerbit’s features?
Seerbit’s payment platform solution is customised and tailored to suit different business verticals and consumer lifestyles. No two verticals are the same. Seerbit is building a single point of payment that can be adopted easily among different verticals to enhance their operations. For example, a hospitality business operation is different from a logistics business. However, the requirement of a seamless and secure user journey within any of these different operations remains unchanged.
Additionally, we are working to bridge the gap between offline and online customers and merchants and removing the hurdles of cross-border transactions.
What has consumer reaction been like, has this changed during the pandemic?
Seerbit witnessed a spike in adoption during the Covid-19 pandemic, as more traditional businesses looked to digital platforms to stay afloat and continue satisfying their target customers. Across the paytech sector and for Seerbit, adoption rates have been relatively good within this past year. However, there is still more work to be done to fully address the frictions and fragmentations of payments on the continent. A lot of offline businesses didn’t necessarily have the digital structure in place to pivot and this led to severe losses for them as their businesses remain fully shut. These classes of businesses are the ones we are working to help evolve in the months to come.
How has the pandemic altered the fintech sector in Africa?
The pandemic has evolved the entire landscape of Africa’s fintech space. In 2020 alone, more people have adopted digital tools/solutions to promote their services or products than they have over the last decade.
This has also been the case for Seerbit. We are fortunate to find ourselves operating in this space at this time to witness this transformational growth. Having leading global and African businesses to identify with and trust our brand to deliver on the payment services they require is a motivation that drives us to be more ambitious.
What have been the greatest innovations in paytech that you have seen in the region in the last decade and where does Seerbit fit in?
Payment gateways that are easily accessible to all kinds of businesses including micro businesses and social media vendors remains the highlight of the last decade for paytech in Nigeria. The massive adoption of mobile money also takes the cake around Africa. Seerbit is actively driving these two bits of African paytech evolution. We enable all kinds of businesses to accept payments and integrate mobile money in the markets we operate in where they are popular. However, we are also working to pioneer the next generation of paytech innovations that will onboard previously untapped sections of the continent.
What problems have these innovations solved?
Ten years ago in Nigeria, businesses looking to collect payments online had to pay heavy upfront fees with limited options to serve digital customers. This greatly stifled the growth of online commerce in the country. Today, this has changed as almost any business can start collecting payments online with minimal costs and easy integration.
Similarly, mobile money has taken the widespread availability of mobile phones and leveraged it to give previously excluded people access to digital finance in countries like Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda.
As we help to deliver these innovations, our goal is to further these achievements, helping to accelerate Africa’s digital evolution even faster.
How can cash first countries successfully adopt digital means of payment?
I believe that the most effective means of reform in a country starts from the government. Enforcing innovation driven-policies and regulations by the governments can serve as a catalyst for increased adoption of digital solutions/payments in Africa.
One way to do this is by digitising payment of government-related amenities such as paying for electric or water bills which can serve as a way to get the majority more acquainted and friendly with digital solutions and increase adoption.
What do you believe still needs to be done in the field?
In order to empower African businesses to connect and compete on the global market scene, there needs to be more collaborative efforts between local payment service providers and governments to get more businesses online and establish Africa as a digital-first economy.
Africa is the next frontier for business growth and bridging these gaps in payment presents a unique opportunity to revolutionise the current traditional business climate and drive economic growth.