By PRINCE OSUAGWU
It was almost a Nigerian affair, with the green white green flag controlling the airwaves at the Michelangelo Hotels, Johannesburg, South Africa, where frontline card and payment transaction promoters, Intermarc consulting recently hosted the world in Award dinner and ceremony tagged Card and ePayment Africa Awards.
The annual Pan Africa event, according to the organizers, is for African continent to catalyze and inspire innovation in the payment space, to match what is obtainable in continents of Europe and Asia.
The award ceremony focuses on technological advancements and innovation within the ePayment space and provides a platform for all stakeholders in the industry to be recognized, rewarded and celebrated.
Although the dinner hosted top executives of e-payment providers from Ghana, Kenya, Angola, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Namibia among many others, it was Nigeria that showed why the African market should rest on its shoulders.
The 19-category awards, had Nigeria carting away three of the topmost awards, with Access Bank emerging as the Best Credit Card Product of the year; First Bank
as winner of Best Mobile Technology award; and United Bank for Africa, UBA, emerging as winner of the Best Card Benefits Programme of the Year
Receiving their awards, representatives of the banks flaunted the rapid growth of the Nigerian market and said the awards manifested the unstoppable dominance of the market.
Obviously, technology trends such as the mass adoption of smartphones and tablets, increasing availability of open APIs and the rise of cloud computing in Nigeria, have actually laid the foundations for innovation across board in areas such as international money transfer, prepaid, peer-to-peer consumer payments, services for the underbanked, and the mobile money payments concept.
Today, the Nigerian payment sector is a crowded market and has even transcended the financial institutions. Players from many different industries are swooping in to grab a piece of the pie.
As major banks and financial institutions are offering new services to retain or win new customers, mobile network operators are creating e- wallets, tech giants like Google, Amazon among others with little heritage in payments are also entering the space.
The card schemes are pouring seemingly endless money into innovation in a bid to retain their market dominance. This is even as a raft of start-ups – many branding themselves as part of the ‘New Finance’ movement, are trying to persuade consumers and businesses to ditch traditional financial services for their innovative products.
Many industry stakeholders have, however, described the situation as healthy for the economies of emerging markets including that of Nigeria.
For instance, Chief Executive Director with iVeri Payment Technologies South Africa (Pty) Limited, Barry Coetzee,who received the Best Mobile Payment Product of the Year award for his company, said that African electronic transaction industry has come of age and can sustain the economies.
He, however, said all that was needed to keep it going was such events that could encourage and celebrate success stories of key stakeholders, just as Intermarc is doing.
He congratulated other winners like Wigroup (PTY) South Africa, that won the Best Alternative Payments Programme award. Arab Bank Morocco Master Card which emerged winner of the Best Prepaid Card Product of the Year, Programme of the Year won by Banco de Fomento (BFA) Angola ,and Industry Personality of the Year won by Ms. Gill Marcus, Governor of Reserved Bank South Africa.