Hey guys….please do me a favor. STEAL THIS IDEA!!!

I just heard that the Central bank of Nigeria recently awarded licenses to 8 new additional mobile money operators bringing them to a grand total of 24 (if so many licenses are being given out, maybe I should just apply for one). On a serious note though, I would be extremely hard pressed to name any of the 24 apart from mypaga which to me has been a very big disappointment. To me, these guys are somewhat bereft of ideas, so I have some questions to ask the “24 wise men of the mobile money industry”  which I hope would get their creative juices flowing.

1. My Phone or My Wallet: Why cant my mobile phone be turned into my wallet? that would allow me use my mobile phone airtime to buy stuff both on the web or offline i.e. in the real world? In other words, why cant I go to a site xyz.com, select stuff I want to buy, check out and be presented with a payment option where I can enter my mobile phone number and PIN and have the total cost of my purchases deducted from mobile phone airtime? So whenever I load credit on my phone, it would be the same as funding my account without actually having an account. Or why cant I go to a local market buy stuff and send a text containing my phone number, PIN, cost of what I bought and the traders phone number to my mobile money operator and have the trader’s account credited with the cost of what I bought? This idea would require you hobnobbing and doing some serious ass kissing to the major TelCos. Nigeria is going to go cashless, whether you guys like it or not, so the earlier you jump on the train with real innovative solutions the better, because that man called Sanusi “wont back down”.

2. eCommerce for Dummies: Since you guys are untested without a track record and your sector is new, it would make much sense if you make the barrier of entry as low as possible to website owners, eCommerce merchants and other people interested in using your solutions. And please scrap the dumb idea of charging a sign up fee, think solely of transaction volume, i.e. charge a cut on each processed transaction, so the higher the transaction volume, the more revenue rolls in. This business model could be likened to a company that gives out shaving sticks but charges for shaving blades or makes its printers free but sells ink and toners. The bottom line is you getting your foot into the door and taking the whole process from there.

I know you guys came into the market on the premise of doing money transfers and the likes, but there are now 24 of you, would it really hurt if just one of you could really be creative and turn the whole industry on its head by tweaking a little the terms of your license by offering a web payment gateway? Since the “big for nothing, monopoly seeking” companies like INTERSWITCH et al have been caught napping in that aspect? The sector is in dire need of innovation and is the number one reason why Nigeria’s tech industry is still in a comatose state.

P.S: I had an interesting conversation with someone today and he asked me a thought provoking question:

“If you implement something like Paypal here in Nigeria without a CBN license, would they send you a ‘cease and desist’ or would they just arrest everyone involved and throw them into jail?”

So, CBN Guv….what would you do if a train of young unlicensed tech innovators ran head first into this sector? what would you do? what???


Number One Reason Why The Nigerian Tech Scene won’t “BLOW”!!!

I sometimes complain about lack of innovation and the endless clones of popular western world type websites, but on second thoughts web developers in Nigeria shouldn’t be blamed, it makes sense travelling on the “safe road” especially when you have a major reason to do so as:

1. Payment gateways: It’s so difficult and expensive integrating payment gateways from companies like “Interswitch” into a website[1] and with the 16 just licensed mobile money operators, who don’t seem to care about the web but are more concerned about mobile to mobile and mobile to offline, cash transfers. I don’t see the industry “blowing up” anytime soon. If it’s so hard to get your money from customers as a website owner via the web, why would anyone want to develop one? Whenever I go to any of the so-called Nigerian “e-commerce” websites, I select stuff I am interested in, click on “checkout” and I am presented with a bank account number where I am to deposit money before I can get my stuff, I am like, jeez!!! whats “e-commerce” about this? How do you expect me to pay in money into the account of an untested company when I could just go to a supermarket or store, select what I want, pay for it and get my goods instantly without any stories? As an analogy, Nigeria’s music scene is so huge today because most people who go into music have this hope that they might just “blow” and make it “big”, because they can see others making big money in the industry. So in the mean time, we better be prepared to seeing little or no innovation and lots of clones of Facebook and a myriad of “SIMPLEMACHINE” forums in Nigeria’s Tech space, just as we have lots of people in the music industry who have no business being there [2].

[1] In 2004, I did some research and found out that it would cost upwards of #150k to integrate Interswitch web payment gateway into a site. #150K in 2004!!! How many web devs could afford splashing such an amount on just a gateway, minus other day-to-day running costs? I don’t know how much it would cost now, anyway. Dear Interswitch et al, there is more to epayment channels than just ATM’s and POS machines and with the new CBN’s cash withdrawal policy, people, like it or not would be forced to use epayment channels, please “don’t drop the ball”. But if you guys do, which I strongly suspect you will, any of the new mobile money operators should please do to you what Google did to Microsoft in the Web Search Industry.
[2.] Although we have some gems in the Nigerian music scene, like 70% of them there now have no business being near a microphone. Terry G, I am looking at you!