If anything has been the bane of software development monetization and fluid e-commerce transactions in Nigeria, it has got to be the security and the universal acceptance of our payment platforms. For ages, the question on the lips of not only developers but active players in the financial ecosystem has been: “how come we are able to resolve the issues with the multinational card companies such as Visa and MasterCard, yet until now we have not been able to solve the issue with PayPal?”
In a typical manner, if the standard is unavailable, then invention is inevitable. This effectively means, we are left with no choice than to build our own PayPal, and hope that someday it rises up to become generally acceptable and fit to handle all of our online transactions without the usual fear of breach or insecurity.
That reminds me of a sort of a town hall meeting, developers had with the main Payment solutions gateway company – Interswitch sometime last year. A meeting which was supposed to be a platform to rub minds and to hatch a way forward, became one where the developers left with more scepticism than they came with, especially because the solutions Interswitch seemed to be proposing did not seem up to par, or so it seemed at that point in time.
The more controversial issue of the day coincidentally was centered on the very issue of bringing PayPal on board, as had been done with the Global card partners. In their answer to the question, they said there were too many bottlenecks to resolving the issue, and in a bit of a rude but maybe blunt and realistic manner, they said “if PayPal wouldn’t come, then why not build your own PayPal?” It sounded quite absurd, and more like reinventing the wheel, but it also seemed like the Hobson’s choice – the only choice.
Interestingly, we all kept wondering that if anyone had the clout to build such a solution and to make it work, it had to be Interswitch themselves, considering the vast array of their network in the field, as of this point, and their familial relationship with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Well, as at that point they had always had this product they were working on called QuickTeller, but it still seemed to be budding and yet to totally take off. Fast forward a year and a few months later, the same would become the rescue point of a customer, in somewhat of a true life scenario, and this would almost make me conclude that QuickTeller on the strength of the story has all the trimmings and potentials to become Nigeria’s own PayPal.
Let me tell the story briefly here: “So Mr. Mo Brown (not real name) walks into one of the top two new generation banks in the country – one which almost everyone has come to know for blazing the trail , offering an almost fair equivalent of global standard banking practices – and his quest was to claim a western union money transfer. Although with a full understanding that the policy had changed and he could not claim the transfer merely with his savings account, he had gone on to upgrade to a current account only the day before, thinking that should suffice, especially with the advice of the customer care agent.
The only other option would have been claiming the transfer with his domiciliary account, but even that had expired for lack of use. Long story cut short, he gets to the counter and after checking his accounts, and the teller told him he needed an account which had been active in the last three months – either current or domiciliary. Without that there was no way he was going to be able to claim the transfer. Asked if there was any way around it, the Teller simply said a regrettable No. At his wits end and looking forlorn, Mr. Brown was about to leave, when the teller noticed his tab, and asked if he had internet connection. On answering yes, the teller simply produced a flier, indicating that there might just be one option left, but it was totally self-service, and at the owner’s behest.
The instructions on the flier bore the directions of using a QuickTeller account to claim a Western Union money transfer. Left without a choice, Mr. Brown went back to his office, and followed the instructions, providing all of the right information for the transfer. There and then, right at his desk, he got an alert on his mobile phone, and an attendant e-mail indicating that his savings accounts had been credited with an estimated amount of money, signalling that the transfer was successful. Totally surprised but quite relieved, he would go on to tell the story to anyone who cared to listen.”
Again on the strength of this story, and such similar ones, it almost becomes quite plausible that we may yet have a credible alternative for PayPal. For those who understand the Nigerian banking space enough, you would agree with me that it can be somewhat difficult and quite official, when it comes to claiming an international money transfer. This would mean that if QuickTeller – which had until now been used for mobile top-ups, bill payments and Flight ticket payments for some choice carrier only – could handle this transfer effectively, and within a matter of minutes, then it might just be the solution we have been waiting for; coming from no less a body than Interswitch. It might only need to be tweaked a bit to satisfy the standards of use as a payment platform, harmonized with the cards for seamless transactions on the various websites and e-commerce sites around here.
Well it is only my opinion, what do you think? Please share your experiences, and let us know if we are any closer to a lasting solution.