At first glance, Africa’s B2B payments sector looks like a saturated market. Many high-profile companies have emerged over the years to process payments on behalf of global merchants. Yet, despite its rapid growth in recent years, Africa’s payments sector is barely scratching the surface.
Africa’s payment landscape is diverse and multifaceted, marked by the lack of widespread card penetration and the preference for localised payment methods over traditional credit or debit cards. The continent has the lowest credit card penetration in the world (3%). This makes the reliance on cash a persistent challenge to the growth of digital payments in Africa.
The fragmentation and diversity of Africa’s payment sector, diverse payment preferences, and varying technological infrastructures across different regions are all challenges the sector is still plagued with and act as deterrents for global merchants to accept local payment methods.
The mix of payment methods varies from country to country. For instance, in Nigeria, account-based transfers and debit cards prevail. In Kenya and Ghana, where there’s lower bank penetration, mobile money reigns, and in South Africa, cards are more popular.
With the low credit and debit card penetration, and the regulatory barriers of payments across the continent, alternative payment methods (APMs) are filling the financial inclusion gaps, catering to the diverse needs and preferences of its population spread across 54 countries. Many African consumers now prefer to transact through various alternative payment modes, such as mobile money, bank transfers, digital wallets, and cash-based systems because of the ease of making payments without the hurdles of traditional digital banking systems. Africa now accounts for nearly 70% of the volume and more than half of mobile money users worldwide.
At a recent edition of TechCabal Live in partnership with EBANX on Friday, November 17 Juliana Etcheverry, Director Of Strategic Payment Partnerships & Market Expansion, EBANX noted that “The rise of the use of APMs is fueled by the instantaneousness of it. People want to be able to make instant payments and not have to jump through multiple hoops.” At the event, the untapped opportunities in Africa’s digital payment market, with a focus on the learnings from Latin America and the similarities in both regions were discussed.
The rise of APMs in Africa holds immense promise for the future of digital payments on the continent and its benefits are far-reaching. One of the most significant hurdles for international businesses entering African markets has been the challenge of adapting to local payment preferences across all countries. These payment methods bridge the gap between global merchants and African consumers, fostering greater inclusivity and accessibility in the digital marketplace. Businesses can now effectively navigate this intricate landscape, offering consumers the flexibility to transact in ways that resonate with their habits and lifestyles.
Additionally, APMs empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by providing them with efficient and cost-effective payment solutions, thereby fueling economic growth and entrepreneurship.
APMs contribute significantly to financial inclusion, bringing previously unbanked populations into the formal financial ecosystem. This was reechoed by Wiza Jalakasi, Director, Africa Market Development, EBANX on TC Live. “APMs bridge the gap between the online and offline world, as people can now make digital payments through the use of vouchers, mobile money, etc,” he said.
Moreover, the evolution of alternative payment methods in Africa paves the way for innovation and adaptation. Companies that invest in understanding and integrating these payment methods position themselves at the forefront of innovation, gaining a competitive edge in an ever-evolving market. By aligning with local preferences, businesses can build trust, enhance customer loyalty, and establish sustainable, long-term relationships with African consumers.
By 2025, at least 70% of all online transactions across the continent are expected to be done with alternative payment methods, such as digital wallets, mobile money, and instant payments. The rapid rise of APMs in Africa points to one thing: these methods will power Africa’s digital economy.
This article is part of the TechCabal Live series brought to you by TechCabal in partnership with EBANX. EBANX is a digital platform that leads in providing alternative payment methods like digital wallets, instant payments, mobile money, and vouchers.