East Africa

Catching up with Africa’s digital payment revolution

Catching up with Africa’s digital payment revolution

Although Africa’s digital payment revolution has helped many people enjoy making financial transactions with unprecedented ease, the constantly shifting landscape has also made it somewhat difficult to keep up with the ever-changing scene.

Despite the movement facing fresh challenges from infrastructural complexities, certain brands have helped micro-businesses and even online gaming sites find new life in the nascent African marketplace.

Much of the press attention around digital payments has focused on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin that have used blockchain technology to enable financial transactions to be undertaken away from the traditional banking mechanisms. This allows individuals to avoid the often excessive remittance fees and also avoid fluctuations in an unstable domestic currency.

There have been several African firms such as Nairobi’s Bitpesa who have been quick to help individuals and businesses implement these systems in a way that was unimaginable just a decade ago.

Key to the success of these systems is the rise of mobile phone technology across the continent. With over 65% of sub-Saharan Africans having access to mobiles, there’s been a steady rise diverse micro-businesses benefitting from digital payments that allow individuals send money via a text message without needing a bank account.

Such technology usually requires the individual to pre-load their mobile with digital money from a vendor. And in line with this is a rapidly-growing trend for digital wallet systems to operate in the online realm with apps like Neteller and Skrill facilitating an easy and convenient way to pay for goods. Here’s Springbok’s slots games that offer an example of a virtual gaming system that uses such payment technology for players to make deposits and receive payments through the secure digital processes.

The sheer breadth of opportunities in the financial landscape that have been opened up via digital payment systems has certainly helped many African nations enjoy some unprecedented economic growth figures. But with the likes of Nigeria’s popular eCommerce site DealDey being bought by a Swiss firm, there are concerns about how to ensure that the continent’s new-found prosperity stays in Africa.

And until Africa economic and political infrastructures enjoy a period of sustained stability, there are concerns that the digital payment bubble could soon burst. But with more individuals and companies sharing the convenience and economic opportunities afforded by the likes of Bitcoin, Neteller and M-Pesa, it’s certainly provided a brighter future for the so-called ‘bottom billion’.

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