By MAIMBOLWA MULIKELELA-
PAYMENT technologies are increasingly becoming an important means for Zambian businesses to accept transactions from its consumers through digital platforms amidst the on-going spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
This is transforming how retailers operate as they are able to transact with customers seamlessly.
Available digital payment platforms include; mobile money, Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, and direct bank transfers such as e-wallet, among others.
Industry experts have been noting that, 30 years ago, most retailers across Africa did not accept credit cards and mobile money payments which they said were still an idea.
However, over the past decade and a half, mobile money has transformed how African consumers access and use their money to pay for goods and services.
The most significant shift in the use of digital payments happened in the last one year, where the Coronavirus disease accelerated digitalisation for retailers.
Liquid Intelligent Technologies Zambia chief executive officer, Mark Townsend shared the same sentiments, stating that COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on internet adoption, the economy and how businesses operate in the country.
Mr Townsend pointed out that the businesses that adapt to using digital platforms will survive and thrive.
“It is no longer about copping short-term, it’s about applying technology to create seamless collaboration, improve data security and stimulate future growth with emerging tech such as artificial intelligence.
Remote and hybrid work is the future, and the right digital strategy is key to success,” he says.
In his write up on enabling businesses to overcome challenges of remote work observes that since the pandemic, e-commerce was growing in Zambia with rankings improving in United Nations Conference on Trade and Developments (UNCTAD) B2C E-Commerce Index 2020 to 120 from 125.
The UNCTAD B2C e-commerce index measures an economy’s preparedness to support online shopping.
Mr Townsend further observed that efforts by Governments to further develop an e-commerce strategy and reviewing its national information and communications technology policy would encourage digital transformation.
“There are endless opportunities that can be grasped by remote- and on-site- teams. We have seen customers succeed and grow through marketing, advertising on Google and social media, leveraging their websites and email.
“Today, wherever your workers are based, you can be available online and able to compete at a global level. There is enormous potential and it is an exciting time,” Mr Townsend says.
For remote workers and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that did not have access to an in-house Information Technology team, secure, efficient systems and support help ensure workers remained connected and as productive as possible.
Unfortunately, retail businesses in major urban areas that were not equipped to handle card or mobile payments found it challenging to survive COVID-19 pandemic.
In Zambia, where multiple mobile players are fighting for market share, merchants and retailers have set up fragmented payment processes, contacts and accounts to accept all forms of payments.
In turn, this means that the retailer is managing varying user payment experiences to collect from multiple mobile money networks and processes for settlement and reversals daily.
As such, Cellulant Zambia country manager Gilbert Lungu says it is addressing this fragmentation in payment processing for retailers by rolling out ‘Tingg’, a digital payments platform enabling businesses across Zambia to accept transactions from their customers seamlessly.
“Today, roughly 50 per cent of retail customers request to pay for their purchases using digital payment options. Therefore, for all businesses- small, medium, large- digitising their payments has moved from good to have a game-changer in what has become the new norm,” Mr Lungu says.
However, this demand presents several challenges for most merchants who might not always support the customers preferred payment methods, resulting in merchants having to enable multiple solutions to support wallets.
“We want to partner with these businesses and make it easy for them to conveniently and affordably accept payments with fewer hoops,” he says.
A single integrated solution, Tingg offers simplified payment tools and processes for merchants to manage their payments.
As a result, businesses can allow their customers to make payments for goods and services using locally relevant payment options.
“In rolling out this digital payments platform, we are slowly removing the dependency on cash and POS terminals. Retailers can accept as many payment methods as possible whilst simplifying the collections and settlement processes.
“For retail customers, the solution provides a standard and unified payment experience regardless of the payment methods,” he adds.
More than 70 per cent of businesses in Africa are small or medium and remain a backbone for economic growth for many other African countries.
Yet, 90 per cent of these businesses collect payments in cash and lack digital payment options that cater to their customers.
Cellulant aims to leverage its digital payments platform to boost growth for the retail sector by making it easy for businesses to conveniently and affordably accept payments and address the complex needs for managing payments.
Furthermore, Cellulant head of brand Divine Muragijimana says digital payments pose the most significant opportunity to bring fundamental transformation for African economies at large.
Cellulant unveiled its brand identity and affirms its commitment to partner with global, regional and local businesses to accelerate payments digitisation across Africa.
Over the last couple of years, Cellulant has evolved to become more than just a business but an idea and belief that Africa should build the continent’s future.
It will continue to be shaped by a belief that the success of people and businesses in Africa is the foundation of transforming the continent.
This belief has seen Cellulant scale across multiple countries, evolve and innovate around the solutions offered to the market and build a great digital payments ecosystem serving millions of Africa.
“Refreshing our brand identity is both an acknowledgement of a new chapter as a business but also an affirmation that our mission and commitment to Africa still stands,” he says.
Cellulant is accelerating digital payments adoption by connecting digital money capabilities with the need for businesses to receive broader payment options and offer sophisticated payments experiences to their consumers.
On the other hand, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) says digitalisation remains a core prerequisite for promoting trade and regional integration among member states in the era of COVID-19 pandemic.
This is especially where there is a greater call for improving regional supply chains in order to advance industrialisation and increase trade among COMESA member countries.
COMESA secretary general, Chileshe Kapwepwe highlights the emerging barriers on the free movement of people as it relates to COVID-19 pandemic, citing constraints affecting the industry competitiveness that needed to be addressed.
“These include inadequate infrastructure development; limited technical capacity of manufacturers and agro-industry players; limited access to finance by growth enterprises; and limited access to regional and global value chains by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs),” she says.
Ms Kapwepwe also recognises that CBC, working in collaboration with COMESA, has been at the forefront of the development of the regional guidelines on the movement of essential goods and services across the region during the COVID-19 period.
This underscores the importance for consistent involvement and advocacy of the private sector in policy making processes and public-private dialogue to address some of the notable challenges in regional trade.
As indicated above by industry experts, the advent of COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way businesses transact with an increasing interest moving towards the use of digital payments.
The future for digital technologies is bright as more Fintech companies are likely to introduce more user friendly digital payment solutions for their consumers.