Fibre was supposed to bring some kind of revolution to our lives in Kenya. We were supposed to feel some sort of Internet revolution in pricing and trade.
I am not one of the naysayers, I believe this revolution is still to come. The internet bubble never burst for us, we were, and still are, too young a society to deeply feel the impact.
As it is, via KENIC official reports, there are about 16,000 registered Kenyan domains in Kenya. An even less number have active basic websites.
A very small number are on the advanced track of e-solutions , that is, the integration of online payment gateways and integration of social media.
This is very good news for the investor. The market is totally untapped.
The biggest challenges for the current payment gateway providers however, are:
- Transaction verification real-time. (Since the transactions go through various holding accounts, verification cannot be done real-time)
- Transaction reversal
- SLA on uptime. No guarantees can be made on uptime, due to the providers reliance on multiple layers of providers.
For the few that are aware of the opportunities of global marketplaces, here are a few ways of taking your business online:
IPay is an easy-to-use mobile money transaction processing system that incorporates M-PESA, Airtel Money and yuCash modes of money transfer.
Ipay lets anyone with Mpesa, airtel Money, credit card or Yucash make payments online without having an account with IPay. All your consumers need is to have mobile money or a credit card and they pay on your site.
As a vendor, you create a merchant account with them, and put their button on your site using their API. (Application Programming Interface,aka their software that you can put on your site to process the transactions )
The API is free, and is available for your website developer to integrate into your site. It utilises paybill accounts with these providers, and for their trouble in creating an aggregator and API development, a percentage transaction charge is billed.
For international credit card transactions they go through 2check Out (2CO) and Moneybookers.
EPay is a payment gateway to facilitate international trade. It addresses e-commerce from the perspective of the vendor by directing consumers to transfer money from Moneybookers into the ePAY-KENYA account from where one can withdraw using Mpesa/Zap or Bank Wire. ePAY-KENYA has partnered with Moneybookers to ensure money transfer.
Registered Merchants then advertise their ‘shops’ or products in the ePAY-KENYA directory for FREE.
Merchants are notified instantly upon every sale of a product. They claim to have a consumer protection policy that allows you to withdraw your sales 48 hours after the sale transaction.
PesaPal is your online account as a vendor or buyer to enable you to make online transactions with agencies that accept the PesaPal process.
Like PayPal, it is purely an account based model. Both buyer and seller must have an account with them for any transactions to go into Mpesa, Zap or credit cards.
As a merchant you create an account and integrate their API with your website to allow for the transactions to be processed. This offers two or more layers of middlemen taking their cut out of your transaction.
It seems to me on the outset, they aimed to be the Paypal of the region.
Now that PayPal is in the region, the integration with Mobile Money is their advantage.
PayPal officially came into Kenya early this year.To integrate PayPal, you are required to go to PayPal.com or Paypal.com/ke. There, you create your account and link your Bank Account and credit Card or VISA card to it.
Be sure to check with your bank whether your card has PayPal integration, as some banks are still skeptical about online transactions and do not allow it.
Some that do are Cooperative bank Debit Cards, National Bank Debit Cards, KCB,I&M Bank(Partnering with Safaricom for their MPESA Card), Equity (this one goes on and off. You need to check with them first.)
As it is, it is not clear what the distinct offering to the region is, as the configurations on the Paypal account are still have a global focus, in that the accounts in question are still US based.
To illustrate this,First, you still cannot withdraw directly from a local account, it has to be a US account. Why have a regional office with no regional integration?
Second is the fact that on their language bar,they have English,Spanish,French and Chinese. Apparently if you do not speak any of these, you probably cannot speak the language of money.
From my perspective, currently, their having a regional office ,as is with most other global ICT providers, is a sales focused operation, and as is is not a drive towards localization of their product.
MpesaPi is an Open source API for Mpesa commercial accounts developed by Michael Pedersen.
In his abstract for his BitMagic talk at the I-hub, he describes it as follows.
“If you want to integrate Mpesa with your system (i.e. e-commerce) today, you have to sign up with one of the payment-aggregators, and pay all the way up to 3.5% of the transaction in fees.
If you only need Mpesa integration and not the full “aggregating”, it is very limited what extra service you are receiving for those 3.5% – you are already paying Safaricom for the transaction, that should be enough.
Using MpesaPI, it is possible for any developer to integrate directly with Safaricom, and thereby removing the need to utilize a “middleman” (aggregator), without having to spend time on developing infrastructure/API himself, hereby greatly reducing the cost of creating online commerce solutions in Kenya.”
Much as the Safaricom has been know to allow system integrators to add value by being the conduit to businesses, Their partnership with Western union takes the M-Pesa solution to the World.An M-Pesa paybill number can facilitate the making of online payments through the Western union channel. The numbers dont lie.
As global business,they must be thinking about and considering configuration of their own API’s. ( Or acquiring a developer’s API…)
The Queen Bee can, if she so wishes, take out all middlemen by integrating her own application API for e-commerce. This has to be an important factor to consider for third party online payment aggregation solution providers.