In this article, I make a case for why an agnostic payments infrastructure gives African merchants more control and helps them focus on innovating, doing better business, and expanding, rather than spending valuable time worrying about payment provider acceptance rates, regions, downtimes, pricing structure and every other hurdle in between.
Digital payments have created a radical economic transformation in Africa over the past decade. As smartphones and Internet connectivity become increasingly available, more consumers across the continent are engaging in digital transactions. In 2022, African consumers made $123.7 billion worth of digital transactions, and this number is projected to continue to rise in the coming years.
However, for African merchants, this rapid growth has not been without challenges. The payment landscape is now populated with a host of different payment companies and providers, each with its unique user interfaces, transaction fees, terms and conditions, and might I add inconsistencies in delivery, acceptance rates, and general reliability issues that don’t serve merchants who simply want to focus on their businesses.
Unfortunately, there is no interoperability between different payment providers. This means that merchants have to integrate different payment providers separately to provide consumers with their preferred payment method. This can be a complex, time-consuming, and costly process. Merchants have to piece their payment operations together with band-aids and hope that they don't break. This can be a major headache for merchants, and it can also lead to a poor customer experience. When customers have to jump through hoops to pay for something, they are less likely to do business with that merchant again.
An agnostic payments infrastructure offers a solution to the payment-related challenges African merchants face.
What is An Agnostic Payments Infrastructure?
An agnostic payments infrastructure is a system that operates independently of any specific payment platform, service provider, or technology stack. In other words, this payment system allows merchants to integrate with multiple payment providers and methods through a single interface. Simply think of it as a core pipeline with multiple inlets for business payments.
With an agnostic payments infrastructure, merchants can accept payments from any payment provider, regardless of the provider's fees, terms, or conditions.
An agnostic payment infrastructure can support traditional payment methods such as credit cards, debit cards, and bank transfers. Additionally, it can integrate with emerging payment technologies like mobile wallets, digital currencies, contactless payments, and other innovative methods that may emerge in the future.
Bloc, for example, supports payments from over 12 payment providers across 5 countries. Bloc also allows merchants to offer 7 payment methods, including debit cards, direct debit, bank transfers, and crypto.
Benefits of Using an Agnostic Payment Infrastructure
An agnostic payment infrastructure helps African businesses to take control of their business in an ordinarily complex and fragmented payment landscape. Below are some ways this system can grow a business:
Integrating and managing multiple payment options is expensive. An agnostic payment infrastructure reduces the overall cost of operation, especially since these systems offer a simplified fee structure.
Integrating and managing multiple payment providers requires a high degree of technical know-how. But with an agnostic approach, the complexity associated with managing multiple payment integrations is significantly reduced. Merchants can focus more on their core business operations and less on navigating the complexities of the payments landscape.
Millions of consumers across the continent prefer different payment methods. By accepting multiple payment options, African merchants can cater to a broader customer base, including those who are unbanked or underbanked. For example, merchants who use Bloc can sell to people who don’t use a smartphone, since they can easily make payments through USSD.
Improved Customer Experience
Customers are often frustrated when they want to pay for a good or service, and can’t find their preferred payment method. And in some cases, they may want to use an alternative if their preferred method doesn’t work. Merchants who offer a wide range of payment options will delight their buyers and turn them into repeat customers.
By not being tied to a specific payment platform or provider, merchants can maintain their business operations even when a particular payment system experiences disruptions or transaction failures that would otherwise be fatal for their own businesses.
Using an agnostic payments infrastructure protects merchants and their customers from fraud because these systems employ the latest security technologies like encryption and tokenization.
An agnostic payments infrastructure can be adapted to accommodate increased transaction volume across different platforms, helping merchants scale their business easily. Also, merchants can expand their business across borders without having to worry about the complexities of local payment systems.
Build with Bloc
As the digital payments landscape in Africa continues to evolve, merchants can take control of their business with an agnostic payments infrastructure. We believe that payments should work for businesses, and not the other way around. The flexibility and interoperability an agnostic system provides will, no doubt, enhance customer satisfaction and maximize revenue opportunities for African merchants like yourself.
Sign up for Bloc today to implement a robust agnostic payments infrastructure for your business that scales with you.