The fact that the Android App Market now supports payments from cards that originate in Nigeria and a number of other African countries is no longer news. After the initial excitement that greeted this news, I guess the real question running through the minds of the developers on the street is :
The reason is not farfetched. Developers in Nigeria as well as a number of other African countries are still looking forward to that glorious day when they will be able to receive payments for their toil in real time the way their colleagues in Europe, America and Asia do (Unless you just dropped from the moon or just came out of cryogenic storage I am sure you know by now that the likes of PayPal and Google Checkout currently do not settle to merchant accounts in Nigeria and several African countries)
While that day is still some way in the future, we can look upon this latest development as a step in the right direction, in fact some have gone as far as saying that 30% of the battle has been won. So the issue now is what are the possible implications of this development and how can Nigerian / African developers use it to their advantage?
First off a very brief look at some aspects of the card payment industry in Nigeria is in order.
In Nigeria today there are currently a number of card schemes in existence of which Visa and Mastercard rank among the stronger brands and together account for (by my own humble estimation) about half of the active cards in Nigeria. This means that today about half of the card carrying Nigerians (if they were to have internet access) should be able to download paid apps from the Android market. As at today this number should be nothing less than four million Nigerians.
This means that as at today the Nigerian android developer has a potential market of about 4 million people who can download his/her app. Of course this number reduces drastically when you factor in internet access and number of Android applications. Twenty to thirty thousand becomes a more realistic figure (of course this will change favorably when the $100 android smart phones come to Nigeria, something we hope will happen in a matter of months).
So…access to about twenty thousand potential paying Nigerian downloaders with the potential to grow to about ten times that amount in the next one year is a lot (I think), at least it is almost twenty thousand more than it was a year ago. These are people who would be looking to download reasonably priced applications that address local problems like traffic, events and venue location, access to the closest pepper soup and African Salad joints and stuff like that. It is here that I see a big opportunity for the Nigerian / African developers who are willing and able to build these apps.
So you ask…ok….i have built all these lovely apps…so how do I get my money?
Well…the way I see it, there are two options:
- You wait until that long awaited day arrives
- You partner with a person/company that has an offshore account that you can use to receive payments (a strong legal agreement is necessary here of course)
The call also goes out to Nigerian and African banks to come up with innovative ways of helping African developers / Merchants get paid while exposing the buyer to as little risk as possible. I do not think it is rocket science (both in terms of technology and policy). It just requires some focus. There is also the glimmer of hope being offered by the mobile payment providers that will soon be licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria , the successes of M-PESA in Kenya and the recent introduction of Google Wallet. I would like to take this to mean that the dark days are almost behind us…and the day of total financial inclusion for the African developer is almost at hand
We look forward to that day.