It is indeed quite disheartening that a country as huge as Nigeria is still largely shut out from the part of international commerce that will allow local online entrepreneurs and start-ups earn foreign exchange through the sale of their goods and services.
Let’s not deceive ourselves; the fact that Nigerians can now shop on amazon or alibaba using their debit cards does not in any way mean that we are participating in the game of e-Commerce internationally. What is happening, in my opinion, is that we are being fleeced by many of the international establishments.
So from Facebook to PayPal to Netflix to Uber; these international organisations are here to do business and nothing but business and with the way these types of transactions are structured, it is almost impossible for our largely analogue nation to get a dime as tax.
Can you imagine how much foreign exchange we are losing as a nation because of certain practices that government has allowed to thrive? Nigerians, for example, can make payment with a PayPal account that is tied to their debit cards and the same Nigerians are not allowed to receive money using PayPal accounts.
This is one of the reasons why I am sort of happy about the mess our currency is in at the moment. It might get our government and policy makers to think outside the box and possibly take the possibility of earning foreign currency online more seriously.
It is a welcome development that a company like PayPal has opened up to Nigerians but after two years or so, Nigerians can’t still receive money on PayPal; how sad can that be? Government should as a matter of urgency start a process of lobbying these companies because the moment they allow honest Nigerians to receive money, we would immediately see the difference.
Let me re-echo what has now become a talking drum: “The fastest way to create jobs in our dear country is through Internet based jobs otherwise called digital jobs.”
At this point, it is great to commend growing Nigerian companies like Voguepay for the strides they are making which is geared towards making it possible for people to accept payments for products and services. I decided to mention them because I have used the service for a while and it is pretty easy for anyone to start receiving money through them.
This is quite commendable because after all is said and done, e-Commerce starts with the ability to make and receive payments online. I believe young companies like these need to be encouraged to grow because the more their user base increases the better they can become an effective replacement to the likes of PayPal. What do you think makes PayPal the defacto king of online payment? Basically, good infrastructure and huge user base that ensures billions are pushed across the platform daily.
Nigerians please let’s use the opportunity of our bad economic period to support our own.
However, I must state that there are a number of issues that must be dealt with by the Nigerian e-payment companies which include that fact fraud must be tackled and online security improved. This should go with massive enlightenment campaign that is necessary to build confidence and this is where partnership with the media is key.
Also, infrastructure that aids the growth of online payment has to be improved. Another critical challenge that needs to be tackled is the multiple steps that the customer goes through during payment. Each time I am using any local payment provider, I have to enter my card details every single time but PayPal as an example does not request for it a second time which cuts down the steps one has to go through.
Finally, I believe players in the financial tech ecosystem have to find a way to improve the process of reconciliation. The way things are at the moment, the banks are currently feeding fat in this whole arrangement to the detriment of start-ups. As a start-up, when a client pays you using any debit card in Nigeria; you don’t get it instantly. You must wait for x number of days before the reconciliation is done.
Some closing questions we’d need to ponder on are as follows: is it possible to solve the mystery of not having to re-enter your card details every time you want to make a payment? Can we change the Nigerian narrative that is closely linked with fraud? How can we improve service delivery? What happens if someone pays for a product and discovers it is defective? Will they get a refund? Is it enforceable?
The above questions are pointers to the fact that we need to strengthen institutions in our dear nation because this is what will build the confidence needed to develop Nigeria’s digital economy.