As cities around the world shut down, retail businesses closed doors and people stayed indoors, digital payments became a lifeline.
Going cashless has since made a difference for individuals and families as they stay, live, learn, and work from home.
For Payment Service Providers (PSPs) such as Cellulant, a greater need has grown to build better payment solutions that make it easier, safer and simpler for consumers and businesses to pay and get paid.
As a way to create a better understanding around payment technology, Cellulant recently had a chat with Africa’s payment & Fintech Pundits; Wiza Jalakasi, Mbugua Njihia– both Technology Entrepreneurs and Carol Mbasinge– Product Manager, Cellulant, to discuss Payment APIs, requirements for businesses and the challenges merchants and developers face when it comes to payment solution integrations.
What is a Payments API?
Payment APIs (Application Program Interfaces) are a set of tools that allow developers, businesses and organisations to build apps that leverage digital payments infrastructure when accepting and sending out mobile money and bank transfers.
This definition by @WizaJ got our conversation started. As he explained, software developers rely on Payment APIs to get access to existing digital payments infrastructure and build cool things on top of it. This, he concluded, makes digital payments more useful for everybody.
What is the importance of APIs for payment platforms
APIs open up platforms and offer services to others to be their consumers or third-party technical service providers without exposing how your system works.
For Payment Service Providers (PSPs), APIs enable them to open up the capabilities their payment platform has to offer while leveraging on other developers and businesses to build use cases on top of the platform.
For Cellulant, providing a payment API for eCommerce businesses to accept payments means that we never have to worry about building an eCommerce platform and the businesses don’t have to worry about consumers making payments.
This saves on resources (time, effort, and people) for both the API provider and API consumer.
Where the provider gives access to multiple payment channels the pain of individual integrations by businesses is minimized.
What makes a great payments API
Simplicity, security, documentation & support structures.
Although there are many features that go into making a Payment API great, some actors are essential.
- Simplicity and reliability are key as they allow even the most inexperienced of developers to easily implement. According to Wiza, If a 3rd year IT/CS student can’t implement your API, it’s too hard to use for emerging markets.
- Security. Developers need to have the confidence that once implemented, your systems will not expose them to any additional risk.
- Documentation. All great #Payment APIs have fantastic documentation. According to DZone.com, API documentation is a concise reference manual containing all the information required to work with the API, with details about the functions, classes, return types, arguments, and more, supported by tutorials and examples. Carol also agrees that thorough documentation is crucial. According to her, API ecosystems are supposed to be self-service and clear documentation reduces unnecessary back and forth exchanges between developers and PSPs.
- Effective support structures are crucial for when developers get stuck implementing your Payment APIs. According to Mbugua Njihia, a good community enables developers to brainstorm & share solutions. He believes that the best ones are led by the communities that love your product. Depending on your specialty there are communities that can be found online e.g for android, front/backend devs or QA. There are local ones that can be found here , for women, there is AWIT . There also exist other communities, though not specific to Payment APIs such as @Decoded_Africa
Mbugua also believes that current design that adapts to continually changing and new needs, though not as crucial a feature as security, still ranks high when it comes to what makes a great payments API