A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Payments API

This is part two of our continuing blog series on Payment APIs -derived from a Twitter chat that Cellulant recently had with Africa’s payment & Fintech Pundits; Wiza Jalakasi, Mbugua Njihia– both Technology Entrepreneurs and Carol Mbasinge– Product Manager, Cellulant.  If you haven’t, we recommend that you read part one here first as it sets the context on what an API is, why APIs are important in creating payment solutions and what makes a great payments API.

Choosing the right payments API especially for a business operating in, or targeting an African based consumer base requires a knowledge of some local market nuances which in turn inform the choice of payments API. Unlike other markets, our continent is not homogenous. This cuts across all aspects of trade and commerce, more so payments. We are a mobile-first market that lacks a common currency, where cash is still king, and where debit/credit card usage is negligible compared to mobile money. 

When it comes to picking the ideal payment solutions providers (PSPs) whose API addresses all in-country and cross border payment options and methods, the struggle can sometimes be too real for businesses that have to deal with multiple PSPs.

What developers look for when integrating payment methods

According to Wiza Jalakasi,  if you’re a developer, you’ll tend to know what you are looking for in regards to the ideal payments API. If you’re not a developer,  his advice, please leave the decision to the developer(s) implementing. There are many research reports that give a feel of where most developers are at in terms of their chosen stack.

His simple beginners’ guide to the five main things that merchants/organisations should look for when  choosing the right payments API are; 

  1. Maximum simplicity
  2. Maximum security
  3. Minimum cost
  4. Easy merchant settlement 
  5. Powerful analytics.

According to him, developers tend to look for the simplest checkout experience for their customers and will implement the API that delivers the cleanest experience for their users. However, it is equally important to consider security and cost. 

Top Challenges in Integration

  1. Poor documentation ranked as the 1st among developer challenges. API ecosystems are supposed to be self-service and clear documentation is critical for integration
  1. Poor support comes in 2nd. According to Mbugua, if a developer has  set up an account and started tinkering with your API but can’t find what they need and can’t get through to human support either! This becomes a major pain especially if the documentation is very poor.
  1. When dealing with cards, the Spirit vs the Word on chargeback policies can be a huge challenge. According to Mbugua, a business can be brought to its knees due to a series of chargebacks. Business margins are not always great and having a cardholder frequently claim refunds from the card-issuing bank can cripple a merchant’s business operations.
     
  2. Poor tooling.  It is important for PSPs to give something that can jumpstart payment integrations. Sample apps, downloadable SDK’s go a long way 
  3. Lack of a community.  Outside of the Payment APIs operator dashboards or developer portal, a good community enables developers to brainstorm & share solutions. According to Mbasinge, depending on your speciality, there are communities that can be found online e.g for android, front/backend devs or Q.A. There are local ones such as this one for Kenyan developers and AWIT for women. Though not specific to Payment APIs, Mbugua recommends @Decoded_Africa and @googledevs platform-specific communities

Cellulant’s new Tingg API & Developer Portal

Cellulant has launched its Tingg API and developer portal. Available on https://bit.ly/TinggAPI, go to the Developer tab, click on developer API and sign up to integrate multiple payment methods including mobile money and direct bank transfers across Africa and get the Tingg API documentation.


If you would like more information on our payment solutions or developer resources, please email us on [email protected]