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Local Developers Petitioning For Telcos To Give Them Easier Integration With Payment Platforms In Order To Grow The Economy.

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Local developers have created a petition on change.org asking Telcos to create a tool that helps them better integrate their apps with local payment services in order to create better applications that are more tailored to Zimbabweans.

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The petition by developers is directed to;

  • Econet Wireless through the EcoCash platform
  • Zimswitch
  • NetOne through the OneMoney platform
  • Telecel through the Telecash platform

What do the devs want?

The developers are requesting for :

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  • Opening a secure publicly consumable RESTful Application Programming Interface (API)
  • Providing clear and concise documentation of the said API
  • Ensuring acceptable uptimes and reliability of the API

Ok, that’s a bit technical so let me try help the rest of us who don’t speak ‘code’ (developers feel free to help me out –in the comments below- if I trip along the way).

What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface and with an API, people will be able to buy something within an app much more seamlessly. For example, in a pizza ordering application a developer would want a customer to order their pizza, add toppings and when the customer clicks buy they would be able to choose their form of payment whilst within the app and the transaction is complete. Simple. This has not been the case for local developers and either;

  • The developers have to hack their way around – making their app run the USSD codes in the background when a user clicks buy. The app would then dial all the necessary codes and then leave the user to enter their pin. No small feat on the developers end.
  • Users have to actually exit the app and then dial *151# (in the case of EcoCash of course) and then enter the merchant code and so forth and so on… It’s a multiple step process which is never a good thing.

Seamless use…

When things (in this case apps) just work seamlessly people are more comfortable using those things. Whereas when a user has to go through a 6-or-so step process to buy something they will just stop using the application.

With an API developers could also have an ‘EcoCash Developer Account’ that makes it easier for them to receive payments. With the hack mentioned above, developers would have to resend a code for buyers to enter in their app but with an API once the transaction goes through its done and dusted.

Another instance where an API would be beneficial to users and developers is in the following example. Let’s say a developer offers a subscription service. If there is an API integrated with the Telcos users can choose to be billed on a monthly basis without any hassle. This would mean users do not have to worry about forgetting to make the payment which would lead to inconvenience if the subscription is of importance to a user (which I assume it will be since you’re parting with your money).

Security

The API also needs to be secure. For example, if the API is insecure and one enters their PIN, the app could continue transacting on behalf of you (without authorisation) which is a problem for obvious reasons.

In the last example of a subscription service giving an insecure API access to your account every month could lead to disastrous occurrences; because of insecurities instead of paying, let’s say $5 a month, the app is now charging you $10 and it’s not clear what exactly the other $5 is for.

API’s are basically URL’s that serve as end-points to serve a specific purpose so the security is of paramount importance so that data capture at these end-points is not misused.

Why should it be clear?

Secondly, the documentation of the API should be ‘clear and concise’ so that developers know what they can and cannot do through/with said API.

Reliability

Telcos should ensure the uptimes and reliability of the API is acceptable because if the damned thing works unreliably then it doesn’t really serve the purpose of creating an API in the first place.

As I highlighted above, I’m not a developer so I may have missed something. If I did, ‘can the developers in the house please stand up!’ Your views or corrections will be much appreciated in the comments below.

Why do they want this ‘API’?

The petition itself states:

As developers and entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe, innovation and business development is inseparable from enabling seamless financial transactions in our products and services.

We’re lobbying operators that enable financial transactions in Zimbabwe to allow developers access to their services via easily consumable APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)

What could be the benefits?

They believe if their request is met they will solve three problems at once! Firstly, this will enable innovative solutions to local problems. They also believe business opportunities and by extension create “much-needed employment opportunities.” Lastly, if telcos help developers with an API, developers are sure the telcos will increase their earnings by commission because of the variation of use case that will be established as a result of the move.

The petition has around 42 petitions (at the time of writing) with a target of 100. If you believe this to be worthwhile you can sign the petition here.


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19 thoughts on “Local Developers Petitioning For Telcos To Give Them Easier Integration With Payment Platforms In Order To Grow The Economy.

  1. I think this is why services like paynow exist. So the developer only creates one integration that can serve multiple payment methods.

    Platforms like paynow also serve to protect the consumer and improve public opinion of online payments.

    Having unmonitored payments is just asking for a lot of fraud and in the long run this will hurt the industry they are trying to cultivate.

    1. I think the request may be coming from 2 schools of thought. The first is growth. How can we grow an economy when we expect the whole country to trade through ONE payment gateway. Another thought one may be having is the PayNow charges that are quite high and maybe this may be that we are paying both EcoCash & PayNow Charges (for example) plus the actual EcoCash transaction fee you are charged on your wallet.

    2. Ecocash lroviding an API is no different to Stripe or Paypal providing an API.

      There are systems in place against this in the ecosystem. From reporting fraudulent apps, rating and unique developer access keys.

      There are industry standards and compliances to this, PCI being one.

    3. If you have ever tried integrating Paynow with mobile apps especially you will quickly realize the need for API access.
      API flows are defacto for pretty much all major payment gateways world wide.

      Even in Eastern Africa, M-Pesa – a service similar to Ecocash has a puclic API

    4. Please note that a payment gateway is not only meant to serve websites – something that Paynow does due to the fact that a user always has to be redirected to the paynow website, a painful and unnecessary step especially when dealing with mobile apps. I for one am not even into mobile apps, I build self contained embedded systems like POS systems and they don’t even know what a browser is. There is definitely a need for API access to the country’s payment systems.

    5. Having a single integration also means a single point of failure, if PayNow is down, the my payments are down.

      PayNows charges are just as high as EcoCash charges, yet you aren’t transacting with EcoCash. It’s a lot to part with just for middlemaning a transaction. At those charges, it’s easier to just get the buyer to swipe on delivery/collection of the goods, for non-digital goods.

      The payments are not “unmonitored”, as the API owner monitors all transactions that pass through their systems. Which is why you would expect an administration fee to be charged per transaction. I’m pretty confident such APIs will also have security constraints built into them.

  2. This petition is coming from developers looking to make a quick buck and not change anything within the actual ecosystem.

    I myself gets zero benefit from it because I am an Android Developer and I have to use Google approved payment gateways or else Google bans my apps.

    But for web devs, they need to look at it from a world-view. Does this mean Zimbo devs don’t care about the international market? Because my United States customers can’t use Eco-Cash.
    Or, we have the user first select their country, then select a payment method. Yeah, no.

    We should be pushing the Government to remove Bond notes, the RBZ to fix the currency system and only then can banks support one-click Visas, PayPal linking and thus I can use 1 payment gateway for all my users around the globe.

    1. .Hi. I started the petition above. I’d like to point out some inaccuracies in your comment.

      Google prohibits payments to their own service when for In-Store Purchases and In-App Purchases.

      They do not enforce this for services and goods that are consumed outside your app. For example Gym Memberships and Groceries.

      Examples of apps already using third party billing are :
      1) Uber
      2) Amazon
      3) Taxify

      The list is endless.

      And no, I am not trying to make a quick buck, thanks

      1. Hi Anesu, great initiative you have started here. My question is what do the service providers stand to benefit if everything goes your way?

      2. You are repeating my point Anesu. I was talking of Google’s IAPs.

        And my second question, what about the global market? It doesn’t have EcoCash.

        So what would you have me do for those? Or you will petition Econet to go global?

        Why not just use the Payment systems in place like PayPal and Visa and fix the real problem, Bond notes.

        1. If my product targets Zimbabweans, then they can pay via EcoCash and Telecash. I would thus benefit from such API access, and my customers would benefit from the convenience.

          ZimSwitch opening up it’s API’s would allow you to capture international debit cards and credit cards too I suppose. So yes, it could help get access to the global market.

          You must also remember that almost every Zimbabwean bank card works on ZimSwitch, but it is not necessarily VISA/MasterCard enabled.

          Anyway, if your target customers can pay via an international gateway, then that’s great for you.

          You don’t have sign the petition, if you don’t see the benefit. Even if you do see the benefit, it’s not mandatory. You are making it sound as if the request is that all Zimbabwean developer MUST sign it.

          With regards to bond notes, since you believe it’s so trivial to get rid of them, what have you done about them? Even just a petition about it? No.

        2. Kwaana iwe, using paypal and Visa is just like externalizing. Why not built a local product that best serve us then we grow from there. China and India are doing it. The idea is Simple keep the money within your people. Ndoo Black empowerment yaacho

  3. Paynow is unreliable and you have to log on twice on two different sites for you to make a payment for example when paying for Zol you have to log on to two sites. The process is long and it is down most of the time. The thing is we need reliable payment platforms. The same goes for eco cash, zimswitch etc their down times are pathetic. It is probably lack of competition. You cannot use those gateways for international payments due to their unreliabilty. Their systems just go down and no one is acountable. You end up losing money. The problem with zim would be that it is seen as a high risk country that is why most international payment gateways refuse to deal with zimbabwean companies. The only one that i know of is 2checkout of which it is expensive and getting approved by them is a nightmare.

    1. once tried to get a 2checkout account I can assure you unless you already have some traction they will not approve your account if you from Zimbabwe. If you try to appeal you will get auto-messages saying the same thing. You are screwed.

  4. If my product targets Zimbabweans, then they can pay via EcoCash and Telecash. I would thus benefit from such API access, and my customers would benefit from the convenience.

    ZimSwitch opening up it’s API’s would allow you to capture international debit cards and credit cards too I suppose. So yes, it could help get access to the global market.

    You must also remember that almost every Zimbabwean bank card works on ZimSwitch, but it is not necessarily VISA/MasterCard enabled.

    Anyway, if your target customers can pay via an international gateway, then that’s great for you.

    You don’t have sign the petition, if you don’t see the benefit. Even if you do see the benefit, it’s not mandatory. You are making it sound as if the request is that all Zimbabwean developer MUST sign it.

    With regards to bond notes, since you believe it’s so trivial to get rid of them, what have you done about them? Even just a petition about it? No.

  5. This petition does have its merits. I’d like to confine my comments to Reliability. This is some form of SLA guranteeing each MNO to adhere to a service uptime of x% with penalties to the MNO if service falls below y%. Ages ago, ZimSwitch had this in place and it worked well to ensure that every ZimSw partner did their best to provide service most of the time. I don’t know if this is still the case.
    I doubt that MNOs will be willing to provide such a “controversial” metric seeing as to how shifty they are when faced with downtime (sometimes they don’t know why their systems are down, what is wrong and when it will be rectified). For me it is the height of technical failure for one to call themselves leading edge when they don’t know how or why they fell off that edge and for how long!!
    The reason why I feel MNOs will not play ball here is because they will be forced to “share” performance stats, perhaps Potraz need to come in here for monitoring, arbitrage and administration, if they have the know-how.
    I work in the telemetry industry and MNOs are reluctant to be involved when their service is unavailable in some areas or at some times. This impacts service delivery downstream which is very difficult to quantify and my bet is the MNOs fear being sued big time at some point. As a matter of interest, does Potraz monitor downtime of base stations, this could be a good starting point???

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