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Interview

SeerBit is providing innovative technology solutions to bridge payment gaps in Africa – CEO

One of SeerBit’s strengths is our ability to scale and innovate within our current markets amidst distinctive government regulations.

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SeerBit is providing innovative technology solutions to bridge payment gaps in Africa - CEO

As more people adopt the online method of running their businesses, processing payments has become a challenge. As an e-commerce or online business owner, if you’ve successfully gotten a customer to the point where they are about to purchase a product on your website, integrating a safe and secure payment process where the customer can complete their online purchase is very vital. Without it, you won’t be able to securely charge your customers when they purchase items from your website. 

Benefits of having a payment gateway 

Integrating a Payment Application Programming Interface (API) is the safest and most professional way to deal with financial transactions online because it enables eCommerce sites to: 

  • Process credit cards
  • Track orders 
  • Maintain customer lists 
  • Protect merchants from fraud and information breaches. 

Many startups in Nigeria have come up with innovative ways to solve the problem of payments during checkouts. One such company is Seerbit. In an interview with Omoniyi Kolade, CEO of Seerbit, he explained how they are bridging the payment gaps in Africa. 

What was the inspiration for founding SeerBit? 

Over the last decade, Nigeria’s payments services witnessed an evolution spurred by growing commercial activities and the digital boom (increased internet usage and smartphone penetration). According to a 2021 report published by Data Reportal, about 50% of Nigeria’s population are using the internet and approximately 90% have access to mobile phones. This is an indication that half of Nigeria’s population have been digitally included, which is the backbone of online and real-time electronic payments systems. Other African countries are seeing the same shift too.  

However, there is a huge gap in the market which doesn’t gain as much attention as it should. If 50% of Nigeria’s population have digital access, how are the majority of transactions in Nigeria and the rest of Africa still happening offline? 

This is the gap SeerBit was created to solve. To create a truly digital ecosystem, we chose to create payment solutions that bridge the gap between online and offline usage, with innovations that defy boundaries. For example, the majority of Nigerians still transact in cash; how can we make sure that digital products are still available to this class of people, with convenient payment options?  

This problem not only affects the cash-based customer but also the online merchants who could lose out on the billions of dollars happening in the offline market. SeerBit exists to plug these gaps, as our payments solutions are always geared towards creating opportunities for everyone to thrive.  

In a nutshell, what does Seerbit do? 

SeerBit is a pan-African enterprise payment platform developed for both online and offline businesses, banks and other marketplace companies. We enable fast, seamless, inclusive and secure payments for leading local and global companies present on the continent. 

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Apart from acting as a payment gateway, are there other services you offer? 

SeerBit is more than just a payment gateway. We are in the business of using technology to address the fragmentations and frictions of payment on the continent. Our current service delivery is our payment gateway and we will soon release our payment solution targeted at offline merchants and customers. 

What makes you different from Paystack and other leading payment gateways in Nigeria? 

What sets us apart is our focus on the underserved and excluded segments of the market in Nigeria. We want to seamlessly connect the online and offline market in a way that removes friction for both consumers and merchants. As a consumer, SeerBit helps you to buy what you want and pay however you want, conveniently, and the merchant is empowered to reach a broader market because we have removed the barriers along the way. 

You are operational in Nigeria, has government regulations affected SeerBit in any way, and how did you adjust to this? 

One thing to note is that for every African country, there are unique sets of rules and regulations governing the sector of payments. There are 54 African countries, which means that there are 54 different rules for payments in Africa.  

One of SeerBit’s strengths is our ability to scale and innovate within our current markets amidst these distinctive government regulations. We tailor/model our solution to work within the country’s license requirements whilst still solving real problems. Regulation is everything in this business and we make it our utmost priority to understand the local payment rules and regulations.  

SeerBit has been in operation for over a year, how many merchants do you currently have? 

Within 18 months of operation, SeerBit has over 1,000 merchants spread across 8 African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire, Uganda, Tanzania and Burkina Faso). SeerBit’s decision to focus first on East and West Africa is because we understand the fragmentation in these regions. 

How successful has SeerBit been in other countries where it has a presence? 

Success to SeerBit is measured by the following: 

  1. Being able to scale/expand into new markets (in terms of merchants and office staff).
  2. Being able to understand the locality and customer type in each country to provide tailored solutions.
  3. Being able to innovate locally amidst the unique regulations in each country.
  4. Seeing the results of the SeerBit solution and how it impacts sales for merchants.

Looking at the aforementioned, SeerBit has enjoyed a good amount of success in the markets we operate in and are keen to add value to more merchants in our existing markets and also new markets as well.  

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Are there any future fundraising plans? 

At this time, SeerBit’s focus is to continue to build out our solution and grow organically. Our priority is to create the utmost value in payments for Africa’s online and offline commercial space.  

We are, however, open to the idea of fundraising and look forward to this happening somewhere in the near future. 

Janet John is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Uyo. She specializes in technical writing where she creates easy to read documentation, articles to clearly and efficiently explain highly complex processes. When she is not writing, she works as a freelance front-end developer

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    Business Half Hour

    How I rode on passion to win multiple-awards in a self-taught career – Shola Animashaun

    Turning down an employment offer at 25, to take a gamble his passion seems to have paid off for Animashaun.

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    How I rode on passion to win multiple-awards in a self-taught career - Shola Animashaun

    There tends to always be a bias towards motivational speakers, who give the “follow your passion, and money will follow” advice and they are mostly chided for giving advice that is not applicable to all climes.

    But then comes Shola Animashaun, multi-award-winning visual storyteller, who proves that even in Nigeria, it is possible to follow your dream and make a lot of money out of it.

    While serving out his youth corps year in 2002, Shola discovered his love for visual storytelling – an art that keeps memories and tells stories using still and motion pictures. He had gotten a camera while working in Ilorin, Kwara state before going for the service year, but then discovered that there were people willing to engage him to capture their memories in pictures and videos, and pay for it as well.

    After the year in Ilorin, he abandoned the hobby which he regarded as a pastime and started the job-hunt, hoping to clinch some white-collar job with mouth-watering remunerations, but over the next three years, it became an endless search until he eventually got a job with an accounting firm based in Abuja.

    Recounting his experience in the Nairametrics Business Half Hour show, Animashaun said; “I was offered employment and I was supposed to travel to Abuja to start work there. By the time I got home, I packed my bags to leave Lagos for Abuja. But one of my siblings held me back. He said if I don’t end up pursuing the passion I had in visual storytelling as a business, I may never end up doing it.

    I listened to him, the next day I went to return the N5000 I had been given to take night bus to Abuja to start work as an accountant. At the time I turned down that job, I was 25 or 26 years old, and once you can’t get into a white collar establishment in your early 20s, it would be hard for you to do that. so when I was turning down the job, I knew that I had burnt my bridge literally. I knew that the decision would be difficult to take back, so I had no option but to be successful. ”

    Turning down an employment offer at 25, to take a gamble on one’s passion is not what many would advise their siblings to do, but it did pay off.

    Over the next few months, Shola focused on building a portfolio of editorials, documentaries, videography and related productions, and within three months, Animashaun’s income had quadrupled the offer he got from the accounting firm.

    Hotflex

    With referrals, he soon got his first big offer – the Globacom campus storm – which took him travelling around the country with the likes of Basketmouth, Jimmy Jatt, and Ruggedman.

    “It is very important to have a portfolio because even when people refer you for the right jobs, they would always want to see what you have done before then. A little talking and more showing, and the results that you seek will come,” he said.

    Animashaun also focused on building a good interpersonal relationship with his clients, to build more rapport and attract more referrals to sustain the business. He also got a deal as the in-house photographer for Nigeria’s number one urban lifestyle and music magazine, Hip Hop World; and has since then worked with several concerts, magazine covers, blogs among others.

    At different times, Shola covered the Eyo Festival, Lagos Carnival, Nigerian Tourism Expo in Atlanta Georgia and Barbados respectively.

    Any regrets?

    None at all, Shola says.

    “There was never a time I regretted my decision. I love the freedom of time, the freedom to take up a job I want. I am always excited but when I was looking for a job for years, that excitement died totally and I started feeling like I was not good enough. Returning to the camera brought back the excitement and that is what I need to fuel my energy.”

    Awards

    The accounting graduate, now turned visual storyteller, has churned out hundreds of productions over the years and gotten several awards and recognitions. Despite starting out as a neophyte and learning through multiple trials and errors, Shola has now become one of the most notable names in the industry. He has executed several jobs within and outside the country and continues to stun the world with better and better productions every single time.

    Jaiz bank

    He was recognised Best Model Photo of the year, Nigeria Photography Awards 2011, and again in 2012. Shola also won the Best Wedding Photo of the year, and the Best Event Photo of the year, Nigeria Photography Awards 2012.

    Shola Animashaun was 2nd runner-up, EyeEm We Are One FIFA14 World Cup Int’l Competition 2014; and the Visual Art Winner, Creative Industry Awards 2015.

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    Hospitality & Travel

    Why more Airlines are flying in Nigeria – NCAA

    The NCAA is not here to ruin any airline but to guide them to operate safely, efficiently and to provide the necessary services to the travelling public.

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    Covid-19 protocol: FG may suspend flights from UAE, the Netherlands

    Captain Musa Nuhu is the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). In this interview, he outlined the attraction of the Nigerian Aviation sector to investors, how the sector can tackle forex scarcity and updates on Azman Airline’s operations.

    Excerpts:

    Contrary to what is happening in other climes, more airlines have been flying in Nigeria in the last four months. How would you assess the Aviation sector?

    There is a huge market here. The Nigerian market is not mature enough. There is a huge opportunity for the Nigerian market to grow.

    That is why you see that many airlines are coming up in the country. We have Green Africa Airways, NG Eagle and so many other airlines coming up. I am sure that Green Africa Airways, NG Eagle are the next to fly. The market is there. It is economics.

    Unfortunately, because of the condition of the roads, a lot of people prefer flying by air. So, the demand is growing and that is why you see many airlines growing.

    I can tell you that out of the 9 million that are said to be travelling within Nigeria, only probably one million people are flying regularly. So, maybe only one or two million people travel in Nigeria, out of a population of 200 million. It is still a virgin market. If we uphold our policies and strategies, we will make a friendly environment of the industry and it will grow.

    READ: Why Airlines fail in Nigeria

    Hotflex

    What role will MRO play in creating such a friendly environment?

    You know airlines go to Europe for maintenance, but when we have MRO, it creates employment. You just roll in your aircraft and do your maintenance in there in Naira.

    You don’t have to go to CBN looking for $100,000. It takes you six to seven biddings and your aircraft is on ground for two months while you are waiting for money.

    So these are part of the processes and strategies that are being put together to help the industry grow.

    What are you doing to develop General Aviation in Nigeria?

    Honestly, when you talk about General Aviation, you touched something that is close to my heart. General Aviation is the basics of any successful aviation industry.

    A successful aviation industry in any country has good General Aviation. It provides the people with the basics such as experienced pilots. Airlines provide experienced management staff and engineers.

    Jaiz bank

    So, when the airlines employ them, it costs them less to train them because they already have some level of experience not direct from flying school.

    READ: Why it is cheaper to fly to UK than some African nations – Allen Onyema

    How are you promoting its policy?

    We have the Civil Aviation Act before the National Assembly. Hopefully, it will be passed into law soon.

    So, once that is done, and we know what the new NCAA mandate is, we will do a stakeholders meeting for a review of our regulations. I think we need to de-clutter and unbundle our regulations so that the requirements for General Aviation is different from the requirements for the airlines.

    They are not the same risk so we need to unbundle those regulations. General Aviation could be Chartered flights, agric spraying, small tourism aircraft, ambulance and others.

    There are so many areas of General Aviation, but right now, regulations are bundled. Somebody flying a corporate and small plane carrying 10 people and you are asking for the same requirements from a Boeing 777 going to Dubai? It doesn’t make sense. When we unbundle those regulations, we believe it is going to stimulate the General Aviation part of the industry.

    And when that is done, all these excess pilots and the people that don’t have jobs will be absorbed. They will get experienced and move on to the bigger airline industry. General Aviation is very critical.

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    READ: Exclusive: New airlines to emerge in Nigeria, as NCAA vets 23 more applications

    Can you say Nigerian airlines are benefitting from the Cape Town Convention about a decade later?

    Not very well, no. Because we have cases where people go and lease aircraft and bring them into Nigeria. They don’t pay and they don’t want to release the aircraft. So, it creates a bad reputation for the Nigerian market.

    That is why I tell you, when you do things, it’s not just one person but the reputation of the entire country that’s at stake. Since I came on board, I have successfully dealt with three cases with Cape Town Convention. There was an airline that took some engines but didn’t want to return them. We fought for it. There was a helicopter that was seized, we fought for it and they released it.

    There was an aircraft that we let go of. If we didn’t do that, people would not feel safe allowing their equipment into our country and even when they do, it is at such an exorbitant rate that any profit the operator hoped to gain is wiped off.

    READ: House of Reps to investigate N5bn COVID-19 intervention fund by the Ministry of Aviation

    Do we have enough safety inspectors to inspect operations?

    We certainly do not have enough inspectors. It is an issue that we discussed when we had a meeting with the Ministry.

    There are issues with the condition of service especially in the area of remuneration. I cannot unilaterally address that issue. We have documents from the salary and wages commission. We met the Chairman and he confirmed they are working on it. That will resolve the issue in the short term, but I am also looking at longer-term solutions.

    What is happening now is not only a Nigerian issue. It is a global issue that affects even Europe and America because the government cannot pay the same rates as the airlines offer.

    But, we can put certain conditions in place to make it attractive for people, pre-retirement, who will come here and spend 10 to 15 years of their active career life, rather than attracting only retirees from airlines.

    I am not against hiring people who are retired because they have certain experiences that we need. However, there should be a right mix of young people who will grow in the system and spend longer time than people who cannot offer more than five extra years because they had retired from active service. The high turnover rate of older retirees affects the continuity of the system and makes it inefficient because of the resources spent to train them as well.

    I will rather have the right combination of the skilled elderly workers and the young upcoming ones and this is something we are already working towards.

    Nigerian airlines in the past few months have increased airfares by as much as 100%, many attributing the increase to forest scarcity. What is the NCAA doing about the forex issues?

    The Minister has been to the CBN and he is doing what he can, but because of the scarcity of forex, the government has its own policy on prioritisation.

    The Minister has been fighting for the airlines but we can help ourselves by supporting the MROs that the government is working towards as it will significantly reduce the amount of forex airlines would need; thus reducing forex outflow and also creating jobs. It would be a double win for the country.

    For the fares, it has to do with the economics of demand and supply. Don’t forget because of this forex difficulty, airlines are not operating their fleet at full capacity. If one of the airlines is out of the system, you try to fill that gap. That will put extra demands on the other routes.

    Can’t airlines re-strategise by using more cost-effective aircraft for business?

    Already, there is a paradigm shift. People are beginning to realise you can’t use Boeing 737 aircraft for short flights. I can see Air Peace has got an E-195, and he plans to replace all the B737 in the long term. United Nigeria is using Embraer 145. Green Africa is using ATR 42, 72.

    There is one that has started processing its documents; he wants to use Embraer 145. Chanchangi wants to come back and they want to use ATR. The demand is there. The thinking is changing because this B737 business is not working for us. It is going to take a while but it is a positive change in the industry.

    What is the update on the Azman operations?

    I must tell you the response we had from Azman has been very encouraging and very positive. Now they understand it is even better for them to improve their business model. I have seen a shift and I can guarantee you that by the time Azman complies with all that we requested, the public will see a different Azman airline.

    That is our purpose. We are not here to kill anybody or to ruin any airline, but to guide them to operate safely, efficiently and to provide the necessary services to the travelling public. I just received a very impressive response from them concerning what they have done. We are going to start serious training for their people next week.

    Where we find gaps, they have already started employing people and they are really working and cooperating. Honestly, I am very happy and feel very relieved at their response to us.

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