From the era where whoever ruled the sea ruled the global economy to an era where anyone, anywhere can build a thriving enterprise untethered to the boundaries of any economy, entrepreneurs of every trade and industry have battled daunting challenges that have posed threats to their businesses. Then, it was the turbulent waves and whirlpools of the seas; now, it is the more sophisticated, malignant threats of cybersecurity and fraud.
Regardless of the era and challenges, a predominant goal of entrepreneurs from all walks of life has been to extend the frontiers of enterprises past geographical and economic boundaries and increase revenue. The approach they have used to accomplish this objective, however, has varied — keeping with the trends and tools of each era.
In today’s fast-paced economy, commerce has moved with the ebb and flow of technological advancements, shifting trade from physical interactions to digital shopping experiences that happen with just the click of a button. The advent of virtual realities and innovative payment solutions has modified consumers’ expectations of the ideal shopping experience, tilting the global economy in favour of entrepreneurs who can offer a convenient and immersive experience of shopping without boundaries. Due to this, entrepreneurs across the world are tailoring their operations to suit the expectations of modern-day consumers, unlocking a unique set of challenges peculiar to a technology-driven economy.
In Africa, a continent whose economy is driven by micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), this unique technology still presents an opportunity to overcome the challenges that have been holding back the very enterprises that drive the continent’s economy. By addressing these challenges effectively, we can unlock the true potential and capability of these businesses. Some of these challenges include:
High Costs of Transactions
As I highlighted at the recent webinar hosted by Unlimit, with the theme “Accelerating African E-Commerce through Innovative Payment Solutions”, African businesses have been encumbered by a plethora of challenges, ranging from high costs of transactions to ineffective infrastructures. These challenges have made expanding businesses to global frontiers — and accelerating the multiplication of revenue — difficult for many African businesses, particularly due to the challenges of cross-border transactions.
An entrepreneur in Nigeria, for instance, who wants to procure coffee beans from Ethiopia has to first consider the difficulty of changing currencies. Such an entrepreneur would have to first convert the agreed sum from Naira to Dollars and then to the Ethiopian Birr — this process will take at least two days, making the process of trading unnecessarily cumbersome and expensive.
Payment platforms, like Unlimit, have the opportunity to cater to this need by creating a seamless payment gateway that enables merchants and consumers across the world to transact without the hindrance of currency differences. We have solved this by making cross-border payments possible, ensuring that customers located in any of the countries supported on our platform, can pay through their desired payment methods — be it Dragon Pay in the Philippines or Ovo in Indonesia — and for merchants to receive those payments in their local currencies.
The Cash-reliant Nature of the Informal Sector
Another unique opportunity stems from the current cash-reliant nature of the informal sector. As Tomi Majekodunmi, Co-Founder and CEO of Bankly, mentioned during the webinar, “The biggest challenge the informal sector has is that the bulk of transactions are in cash. This heavy reliance on cash creates a huge discrepancy between how players in the sector are willing to pay for goods and services and the way digitisation has moved on.” This peculiarity makes accessing a store of value, credits, affordable loans and working capital tedious for the average entrepreneur in the sector — and resultantly makes scaling and competing on a larger scale difficult.
At Unlimit, we have tackled this by incentivising digitisation. With unique features like the global merchant dashboard, merchants now have a birds-eye view of metrics, KPIs, and vital management information needed to make informed business decisions. This feature makes it incredibly easy for merchants to track qualitative business performance, making it easy to optimise inventory management as well as predict consumer behaviour. With tools like these, we have made it easy for merchants across the globe, regardless of industry or sector, to scale and extend their footprints — and also grow their revenue tremendously.
The Pervasive Trust Barrier
Yet another opportunity that can be harnessed is that presented by the trust barrier. Generally — and quite understandably — merchants and consumers alike have reservations when engaging in transactions with people they haven’t vetted and are uncertain how to track. This trust barrier, as Ezeadichie Onyeka Michael, Founder of Haelsoft Inc., mentioned during the webinar is foundational — “Our analysis revealed that a lot of buyers don’t like completing transactions online. They send messages to sellers, asking to pay offline. Looking at the statistics, we found out that this is caused by lack of trust; buyers are sceptical about making payments on certain platforms.”
The scepticism about making payments on certain platforms is not entirely unfounded. Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, CEO of Konga Group, pointed out during the webinar that payment gateways have not always been dependable. “At the early stage in the tech industry, the payment gateways were not always reliable. Sometimes you’ll see an 80% failure rate on payment gateways.” All of these impact the rate at which trade is done freely. Without the freedom to trade both nationally and internationally, businesses cannot harness the multiplicity of goods, services and currencies made readily available by the borderless nature of the global economy. This places a limit on the rate at which businesses can expand and on their revenue capacities. From the era when commerce was heavily reliant on trade routes on the high seas, the reach and wealth of businesses depended on the freedom of trade — countries exchanged goods to meet each other’s needs. Today, the need for this freedom still exists.
Innovative payment solutions, like those offered by Unlimit, solve these and many others plaguing businesses in today’s world. Through several sophisticated tools, Unlimit protects both entrepreneurs and consumers, making it easy to buy and sell goods seamlessly. From the consumer standpoint, Unlimit subjects merchants to stringent KYC and AML checks to verify legitimacy. This ensures that consumers are not at the mercy of swindlers posing as merchants. Additionally, we took care to fit our platform with sophisticated, Central-Bank grade anti-fraud tools. These run multiple checks on transactions in mere seconds, ensuring that suspicious transactions are flagged and stopped. With these features, we eliminate the trust barrier and protect customers and merchants alike from fraudulent transactions.
By continuously identifying the obstacles businesses face, strategising and developing solutions that pave the way for seamless adoptions and wide-stream usage of innovative payment solutions, we, at Unlimit, are ensuring that no business is left behind.