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Finance

Nigeria: Credit card payments without the internet

Founded in Finland in 2014, and targeting Nigeria and other countries in Africa, IroFit  is the only mobile card payment system that allows merchants to accept card payments without an internet connection. Its revolutionary technology makes real-time processing of card payments possible in many areas of Africa where the internet connection is poor or absent.

Now with a mobile device and a card reader, small businesses can accept card payments, and get access to other tools such as sales history, analytics, inventory management, CRM, loyalty management, payroll and support. And the list enlarges with every passing day.

“We are the first system in the whole world offering instantaneous offline card payment processing services,” says Omoniyi Olawale, the startup founder and CEO. “Small businesses can now process card payments through their mobile phones. To manage their day-to-day operations in real time, all they need is the free mobile app and a certified card reader.”   

African economies are growing at a phenomenal rate and the standard of living is on the rise. There is a strong emergence of the middle class with sophisticated tastes and buying habits. The result is an unprecedented explosion in business and commerce. African customers deserve the opportunity to buy with their ATM/credit/debit cards without being limited by the unreliable internet coverage.

Olawale singles out Nigeria as the largest market in Africa, boasting more than $200 billion worth of card payment transactions being made annually. 

To make the card payment processing possible without the use of the internet, IroFit technology sends encrypted transaction information through the already existing GSM channels. “IroFit technology can be used even in areas with the basic of GSM mobile coverage capable of making and receiving voice calls,” says Olawale. “Thus we are capable of increasing and expanding geographical card payment coverage three to five times that of the traditional systems.”

This means the overall transactional card payment success rates in areas with poor or no internet connections rise from 50% to over 90%. With mobile phone technology taking the continent by storm and with more and more innovations tapping solar energy, more and more individuals can now participate in commerce and business in a manner that would not have been dreamt of in Africa before.

The idea came about because Olawale lived in Finland for more than six years and was used to card payments in all areas of the country. However, when visiting Nigeria, he was touched by the sorry state of affairs back home. He noticed that card payments were not being accepted even in the largest of hospitals. And the reason was the internet connection was either unreliable or not available at all.

“Despite being a medic by training, I embarked on research in this area and eventually got hold of two engineers with whom we developed this solution,” Olawale explains. The startup now has plans to open its APIs so that entrepreneurs and developers can take advantage of the situation and come up with products suited for the technology.  

“We are not capable of developing all the possible tech products that can be integrated into our system on our own,” by Olawale. “This is an era when you just cannot keep everything to yourself, but you use your innovation or software to assist other developers to come up with what they would do better.”

IroFit has teamed up with software developers, local angel investors, leading banks in Nigeria, and other stakeholders for seed funding. But the startup has plans to move beyond Nigeria and Finland.

“IroFit has been in discussions with players and potential partners in Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Honduras, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines with interests coming from North America and Europe,” says Olawale.

“We are targeting a huge market and our objective is to make life easier for customers in these countries. For a long time technology products that were originally developed for developed countries have in many occasions been introduced into and adopted by developing emerging markets. But these developing and emerging markets characterize the greater part of the globe and they ought to have products that have been developed and designed for their particular needs.”

And in a country stereotyped as a safe haven for fraudsters, “Our technology is secure, exceeding the most stringent of global standards,” Olawale concludes.

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Daniel Muraga

Daniel Muraga is an experienced online writer and communications professional based in Kenya.

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