Friday, 15 January 2010
Nigerian Online Payment Systems
For some time we've been looking for an on-line payment gateway to integrate to a web project we are developing. So I embarked on a search for a good one that meets our requirements. The most important requirement is that it has to be Nigerian, one might say "Why?". Well, we trust Nigerian because unlike foreign companies we believe they won't freeze our account simply because we are Nigerians.
My search led me to discover some payment systems which I list below.
SurePay from a company called websoft. SurePay is a service which I cannot tell weather I like or not because it is so shrouded in secrecy. The website tells me that as a merchant I can accept interswitch, visa, Mastercard and Etranzact cards payment but refused to show me how. I couldn't get access to their API. They say I need some kind of certification to integrate it to my site and that costs N75,000 plus an activation fee of N50,000. A total of N125,000 before I can integrate or even see the API. So what happens if after paying I discovered that the API is crap ? Moreover both interswitch and Etranzact web payment service costs roughly N150,000 each. I'd rather go for one them since they provide a full online merchant account. So I moved on passing SurePay.
PayLive365 from iDevWorks: I had a lot of hope on this service because I've seen like two products from iDevWorks that impressed me. It's like the engineers over there know their onions. But the problem is that the service is still in Beta and I couldn't even create an account. So I came back after a few days and it's still in Beta, then a few weeks, then a few months and still Beta. The last time I checked, their ssl certificate has expired.
NetNaira from goattale: The first time I came across NetNaira, I fell in love with it, I checked out their API and loved it. This is despite the fact that my customers need a NetNaira account to pay me. So I registered a merchant account and started integration work on our site. They even have a sandbox url that you can use for development and testing. So everything was Ok and we were ready to go live. Suddenly we discovered that you have to pay N10,000 to get activated. Well, that's not too bad we thought. But there is a new rule on NetNaira, you can't have a transaction that's worth more than N40,000. Too bad what we want to sell costs a bit more than that. I still couldn't understand the logic behind that restriction. Netnaira charges commissions per transaction, I'll expect them to welcome high value transactions because it will lead to bigger commissions. Well, maybe it's not for me to understand. So I left Netnaira with a broken heart. We could have had a great relationship.
SoftPurse from SoftCom: The first impression SoftPurse gave was of a service that is well designed and developed. There website design was also cool. Though a merchant only get paid by a client with a SoftPurse account, they allow clients to fund accounts with Interswitch or Etranzact cards. There API is available once you register a merchant account which is free. My only reservation is their choice of API design. They used XML webservices. I personally prefer an API that's based on HTTP POST parameters. That way integration will be a matter minutes instead of days. We went ahead and tried integrating with the existing API but not without some hitches. But we are not giving up on SoftPurse so I got in touch with their lead engineer, Ezra Olubi. Ezra is a great guy that seems to be receptive to ideas. He even accepted our input and made a correction on their integration example. We have now postponed integrating softpurse but we did not shelve it. I think Ezra is one of the reasons why we are carrying on with SoftPurse.
CashEnvoy: I am not going to waste too much time on them cos they've hidden all integration info and require me to send them an e-mail to get it. Sometimes it's annoying how companies scare away potential customers by being unnecessarily secretive.
FasteCash by TechClick Limited: This is also an e-wallet. Meaning customers need to have an account before they can pay merchants. FasteCash seems to be at lost about their actual business model, one minute you get the impression they are an online payment system and the next minute they are a bulk sms service. if you don't believe me, go through their FAQ. But the real problem here is that you need some kind of scratch card to load your account. All the scratch card resellers are either in Lagos, Port-Harcourt or Warri and our lab is in Maiduguri. If you don't understand my point then I suggest you get a map of Nigeria and check the distance between Maiduguri and any of the three cities I mentioned. I know Maiduguri is far but at least get a reseller in Abuja. I have more reasons to go to Abuja than to go to Warri. Though one can load via bank payment, I still say no thanks. We don't want to put our customers through that trouble. We can as well collect bank payments directly. On a positive note, I like the design of their homepage and they have quite a number of resellers but none across the Niger.
ChezolaPay : This is one payment system that got my attention because it got some reviews from blogs that I respect; Timbuktu Chronicles and White African. But the last time I checked, their site has vanished.
NairaPro: I am going to keep it short. No FAQ or API info. Maybe I'll have to register to get them. But at least give me a FAQ.
VTN from LFR Communications: Virtual Terminal Network has all the problems you can get in all the payment systems we passed on. They also have the additional disadvantage of not accepting any of the popular payment cards used in Nigeria. To fund your account you have to load via their bank account. VTN has everything to scare us away, but we are not running, we are planning to integrate VTN as an option. This is for some reasons we took into consideration. VTN already has up to 3000 merchants, a hunch tells us that there are even more non-merchant accounts than that. So there maybe potential customers that already have VTN accounts. Secondly VTN seems to be a mature payment platform judging by the company's experience in online payment even before creating VTN. The same company owns GraphCard. Thirdly, their API is not secret and you do not pay anything for a merchant account.
There are other payment systems I came across during my search but I believe only the ones above deserve any mention. Many are just crap some of the sites are filled with broken links, while some don't seem to understand what a payment system is suppose to be.
I think I must make it clear that the above review was largely based on my personal opinion and the opinion of my team members. So don't just take my word, go check out their sites and judge for yourself.