Chenosis: New Pan African API marketplace for developers

How MTN is providing a new Pan-African API aggregator marketplace for Developers to offer and consume API products from a single platform

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We are living in a time where almost everything we do is dictated by digital technology in one way or another. How we communicate, learn, earn, play or work is well informed by the digital ecosystem. As the African continent continues to embrace technological disruption underpinned by a rising wave of modernism and innovation, the rise of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) on the continent are opening new revenue flows for developers and businesses to maximise customer value by offering first-class, differentiated, money-spinning features and services in a faster and cost-effective manner. For this reason, the continent is gradually moving from abject poverty and widespread inequalities to speedy creation and delivery of products and services. 

Developers, business and individuals interested in using APIs to develop their cause have had to make do with multiple sources for different APIs. This is now a thing of the past. This is because MTN is unlocking new economic and business growth opportunities through innovation, by creating the first and the only Pan-African API aggregator marketplace. Chenosis is Africa's first cross-industry API ecosystem where developers can publish and monetise their various APIs on a single platform.

Chenosis official launch in August 2020

MTN extended its digital strategy with the launch of this new African API aggregator. It is a separate brand and entity and has an arms-length relationship with MTN so that it remains open to all mobile network operators, fintech startups, payment service providers, mobile wallet operators, financial service providers, and others. Chenosis enables developers and businesses to discover, consume and subscribe to a growing library of open APIs published by local and international startups and businesses. The platform was officially launched in August 2020 and is based in South Africa.

Charles Molapisi, MTN Group Chief Technology and Information Officer tells IDG Connect: "Chenosis provides an open marketplace where developers, startups, and established businesses can monetize and extend the reach of their digital products and services to new markets as APIs on the platform. In turn, developers are able to tap into one of the fastest growing library of open API products and services from across the continent, ranging from telecommunications, e-health, e-government, internet of things [IoT], fintech, e-commerce, identity and authentication, payments and collections, location and more, from a single marketplace."

In order to extend its offering, "Chenosis works with developers, startups and businesses that have unique API assets or commercial relationships to create API mashups and aggregations that are easier to monetize, consume or provide higher value solutions to problems that businesses are trying to solve. Although most developers market their APIs on Chenosis under their own brand, cross industry or geography API mashups are usually listed as Chenosis APIs so as not to create confusion by listing the multiple partner APIs orchestrated to create the mashup," Molapisi explains.

Examples of API products that Chenosis has white-labeled from partners include two-factor authentication APIs, identity verification APIs, payments and collections APIs, and more. The platform also creates mashup API products from APIs provided by multiple partners in different countries to create single integration points for developers and businesses, without having to worry about integrating into multiple unverified endpoints in multiple countries.

API product creation and publishing wizard and pricing models

Most publishers should be able to follow the API product creation and publishing step-by-step wizard on the Chenosis marketplace website to get their APIs integrated and published. The marketplace also provides the tools for publishers to earn from and promote their APIs, by creating subscription plans and product bundles that developers and businesses can purchase. To access the API marketplace, load and integrate your APIs, you need to register. Some APIs may be free to use, while some may carry a prepaid, postpaid or even a pay as you go usage fee.

There are separate dashboards available so publishers and consumers can track revenue/credit balances, and view consumption analytics and API performance. "Chenosis also has commercial and engineering resources available that can support publishers with unique integration, commercial or monetization requirements that cannot be fulfilled by the standard API partner on-boarding interface," Molapisi tells us.

The platform is flexible and allows publishers to package and price their APIs in a number of different ways to suit their own pricing, discounting and marketing models. Options include a bundle of one or more individual APIs into an API product offering; creating multiple price plans with custom pricing or discount structures for each API product; or offering an initial freemium plan with incentives for the developer to purchase a more premium price plan later on.

Partners in the digital space

Chenosis is currently working with more than 40 developers, start-ups and businesses that are at various stages of bringing their digital API assets to the marketplace. While many of these partners are based in the continent, there are a significant number of international players who are also bringing their assets to the platform, within easy reach of African developers, start-ups and businesses.

Chenosis has already announced strategic partnerships with Blusalt, a Nigerian-based emerging digital platform provider, Gwiro, a leading software services company founded in South Africa, and EDGE Evolve, a global provider of electronic healthcare, hospital management and patient care systems. The platform is working with additional partners to synchronise a number of major partnership announcements in late November and early December.

Probably the best example of recent and important steps towards making Africa better is the recently announced strategic partnership with EDGE Evolve. In the context of the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic, EDGE Evolve is making its eMed hospital management suite of APIs available for developers, health care providers, and hospital and clinic operators to use. The first APIs to be made available is the much needed "Patient Management" APIs. This company provides eMed Hospital Management Systems that aid in the managerial and administrative operations of small to large-scale healthcare institutions. The system provides error-free data that supports effective decision making, enhancing operational efficiencies while reducing operating costs.

Over 4,000 users and 250 developers have signed up on the marketplace since launch. In the long term, Molapisi tells us, Chenosis plans to be "the largest library of open APIs published on the continent, be the preferred monetization and API discovery and integration point and capture a significant share of the estimated $1 trillion global API economy by 2025".

The African challenge

Other than capital and funding, Chenosis identifies two significant challenges faced by many startups and entrepreneurs in Africa. One is the ability to scale rapidly and expand their market access beyond their geographical home turf, and second is the ability to tap into the digital, regulatory and process enablement resources that their peers in Europe, North America and Asia have access to. In this way, the platform seeks to tackle these challenges by collaborating with other African players in the tech-space.

"Chenosis is designed to collaborate with tech-hubs, large multi-national companies and the tech startup community to contribute to the alleviation of these challenges," Molapisi explains. "Although Chenosis is an African marketplace, its reach is global. There is unprecedented global demand for innovative digital products and services from African startups and entrepreneurs. Chenosis aims to make these digital products and services even more accessible on a global marketplace that is trusted by everyone – thus contributing to the alleviation of the global market access problem faced by most startups [in Africa]".

These challenges are some of the reasons why MTN decided to take the endeavour to be the first to market in the African region. The company realised there are no cross-industry, multi-sector pan-African API marketplaces offering the range of developer, and publisher platform services for discovering, integrating, publishing and monetising API products on the continent, and sought to provide that and more.

However, Molapisi understands that there are other players in the same niche, but not targeting Africa in the manner that Chenosis does, mentioning global competitor RapidAPI in the USA, as well as more niche competitors, such as KPN API Store (cross-industry, Europe), Apigate (telecommunication, Asia and Middle East), Bizao (telecommunications, Africa) and MFS Africa (mobile money, Africa).

Access to the marketplace and mobile money

Africa has a large population most of which is unbanked. However, the mobile money wave is rapidly spreading throughout the continent and internet access is no longer as big a problem as it used to be. With Chenosis, businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs can easily get access to mobile payments throughout the continent and the world. The platform is helping improve payment ecosystems across Africa and the integration of mobile money as a payment option is an important part of that. The platform is also creating the ability to pay through mobile money online, in the same way as you currently can pay through MasterCard or Visa. That integration must go into the backend of mobile money platforms and pull in the wallet, check if there's a balance and facilitate the payment. Chenosis already has partners who are offering Airtel Nigeria and 9Mobile in Nigeria API products and services.

Additionally, person-to-person (P2P) transfers is an important API that people are asking for, and with Chenosis, they can access a P2P capability, making it easy and possible for businesses and individuals to pay and send money. The best thing is that you do not necessarily need to be African or in Africa to benefit from all these API offerings.

"Chenosis can help fuel innovation in the African continent. APIs are a big part of digital transformation and can enable growth. Because this is a universal API aggregator, anyone on the planet that has an API that they want to offer, they can bring it on-board," Molapisi concludes.