Writer: TOLULOPE OLANIYI
In the digital age, payment gateways have become the unsung heroes of modern commerce.
These behind-the-scenes technologies ensure that our online transactions are smooth, secure, and hassle-free. Much like the point-of-sale terminals at brick-and-mortar stores, payment gateways play a pivotal role in the world of e-commerce.
Understanding Payment Gateways
As Zoho aptly puts it, “A payment gateway is a technology that works behind the scenes to approve payments online or by using a payment terminal in person.”
In simple terms, a payment gateway is the channel through which your hard-earned money travels when you make a purchase online. It’s the virtual handshake between customers and businesses that makes digital transactions possible. But how do these gateways work their magic?
“When a user initiates a payment online,” explains Zoho, “payment gateways request authentication from the user, verify that all information provided is accurate and belongs to the customer, and check whether the customer has enough money to facilitate the transaction before approving it.”
In essence, payment gateways are the guardians of online commerce, making it effortless for users to engage in secure transactions on the web.
The global surge in electronic payments
Electronic payments have evolved into a thriving industry worldwide. McKinsey, a renowned global management consulting firm, reports that electronic payments have attracted more investment than any other financial services sector over the past decade, delivering substantial returns and growth.
Nigeria’s electronic payment landscape
Nigeria, a nation known for its dynamic economy, has been no stranger to this digital transformation.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the country recorded a total e-payment transaction volume of 22.1 billion, valued at N1.6 quadrillion in the latest available data.
This, despite a slight decrease from the previous year, signifies the substantial volume and value of electronic payments among Nigerians through various gateways.
However, despite this digital financial prowess, many Nigerians still encounter challenges when dealing with foreign currency-denominated transactions in dollars, Euros, pounds, and other popular currencies.
The volatility of exchange rates, the weakening naira, and substantial disparities between the naira and these currencies have posed significant hurdles.
Consider the case of Nigerian students studying abroad, particularly in the UK. In 2022, over 43,000 African students were enrolled in UK institutions, with a substantial proportion hailing from Nigeria.
Data from 2021 reveals that Nigerian students and their dependents contributed an estimated £1.93 billion (~$2.45 billion) to the UK economy.
Yet, due to the scarcity of foreign exchange in Nigeria, making payments for overseas education has become increasingly arduous. In March 2023, Nigerian banks announced reductions in the allocation of dollars for personal and business travel allowances, further compounding the challenge.
The new directives slashed the personal travel allowance by 50% and the business travel allowance by 60%, making foreign transactions even more complex.
But education expenses are just the tip of the iceberg. Subscriptions to platforms like Apple Music, AliExpress, AWS, Spotify, services like Grammarly and ChatGPT, e-commerce giants like Alibaba and Amazon, and myriad other international transactions have all been hindered by these currency-related obstacles.
Fintech to the rescue
In response to these pressing issues, various tech firms and fintech companies have introduced innovative products that function as payment gateways specifically designed to facilitate foreign transactions. These gateways empower Nigerians to make payments for products and services beyond their borders, easing the frustration of navigating a complex financial landscape.
Among the notable payment gateways in Nigeria are Flutterwave, Paystack, Remita, SeerBit, Interswitch, and Monnify. Let’s delve into some of these platforms and understand how they are simplifying international transactions.
1. Tuition by Flutterwave Technology Solutions Limited:
Flutterwave, Africa’s leading payments technology company, recently launched “Tuition,” a groundbreaking payment product. Tuition allows African users to conveniently pay various fees to educational institutions, whether they are studying locally or abroad, all while using their local currencies.
“Tuition is designed to solve the challenges in paying school fees for students studying abroad and at home,” says Flutterwave. The service enables students, parents, guardians, and sponsors to pay school fees to over 40 institutions in the UK, with plans to expand to more countries in Africa and beyond.
Tuition offers fast and secure payments, multiple payment options, affordable pricing, real-time support, and extended processing times for accessing foreign exchange for international school fees.
To use Tuition, users must create a profile, submit their data, carefully review the information, and confirm their payments. Tuition is not only streamlining education payments but also providing valuable insights into exchange rates and charging a one-time fee of 20 GBP for processed payments.
2. Paystack Payments Limited:
Paystack, a homegrown success story, was acquired by the American payments company Stripe in 2020 for over $200 million. The platform boasts a near 100% transaction success rate and offers multiple payment options, including card payments, bank transfers, USSD, PoS, Visa QR, mobile money, bank transfer, Apple Pay, and more.
Over 80,000 customers rely on Paystack for their payment needs. The platform offers transparent pricing, with fees ranging from 1.5% + ₦100 for local transactions to 3.9% + ₦100 for international transactions. Settlement occurs the next day, and it seamlessly integrates with popular eCommerce platforms.
3. Remita by SystemSpecs Holdings Limited:
Remita is a familiar name to many Nigerian public university students, as it is widely used for fee payments. Beyond education, organizations like Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), DStv, and StarTimes rely on Remita for customer payments.
Remita supports transactions through USSD, debit/credit cards, PoS terminals, and bank transfers. The platform charges a 2% fee capped at ₦2,500 for regular transactions, with an additional 2% charge for foreign cards. Settlement occurs the next day, and Remita also provides value-added services and marketplace services.
SeerBit, a fast-growing Financial Technology company, is on a mission to reshape commerce across Africa. It supports various African currencies and offers customizable pricing based on transaction volumes.
SeerBit’s platform accepts payments through direct debit, bank transfer, PoS, USSD, bank account, card, and mobile money. The platform charges no setup fees, with fees for local cards capped at NGN 2,000.
Merchants using SeerBit can receive payments in 13 currencies and enjoy Level 1 PCI-DSS compliance, ensuring top-notch security. Integration options include WooCommerce, Magento, and Wix.
5. Interswitch Payment Gateway (IPG):
As one of the oldest fintech players in Nigeria, Interswitch is trusted by businesses like Dominos and BetKing. Setting up an account with Interswitch is free, and it charges a 1.5% fee for local transactions capped at ₦2,000. International transactions are also possible, with a 3.8% fee.
Interswitch supports USSD, card, bank transfer, and QR code payments. Settlement happens the next day, and the platform offers options for recurring payments.
Monnify is a payment gateway for businesses to accept payments from customers, either on a recurring or one-time basis.
Monnify offers an easier, faster and cheaper way for businesses to get paid on their web and mobile applications using convenient payment methods for customers with the highest success rates obtainable in Nigeria.
In a world where the movement of money knows no borders, these payment gateways help digital transactions or electronic payments happen seamlessly.
Whether it’s paying for education abroad, shopping on international websites, or subscribing to digital services, these gateways are simplifying the complex world of cross-border transactions for Nigerians.