Talking about the African financial ecosystem without attribution to Interswitch’s influence is incomplete. Since its inception in 2002, the global digital payment solutions firm has continued to push the boundaries of innovation to deliver payment solutions that enable seamless commerce activities across Africa.
Though predominantly payment-focused, the conglomerate wants to be perceived as more than just a payment platform. To foreground this new status, Interswitch organized a media parley on March 17, 2022, at Four Points by Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos. The Interswitch team took the media through an immersive session about game-changing products and services in the platform’s bouquet of offerings.
One of such product offerings is the e-Clat, modernizing the healthcare sector in Nigeria and Africa through its services. The healthcare technology consists of a core e-Clinic software and additional specialist modules.
“We are creating a platform that digitizes the entire healthcare ecosystem in Africa. A lot of health institutions use our e-clinic platform. The days of writing prescriptions on paper are gone. You just need to go to the front desk and give the attendant your details to search up in their system. Afterwards, you get access to the doctor,” Olawale Akanni, Group Head, Growth Marketing, Merchants and Ecosystem at Interswitch said.
Titilola Shogaolu, the divisional CEO at Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services Limited further explained that Interswitch was in partnership with various organizations, including government healthcare institutions to profer healthcare solution infrastructure. Presently, the e-Clat is used across state government hospitals in Kaduna state. “We also have the eClat solution for patient management and drug administration being utilized by hospitals,” she explained.
The leading payments company also highlighted the role of its various platforms such as Verve, Quickteller, Quickteller Paypoint, Interswitch Payment Gateway, and API Marketplace among others. Their role cuts across ecosystems, including, but not limited to financial services, payment, lending, transportation, e-commerce, health, and so on.
The Interswitch group has powered the operations of more than 65 products and services with over 1,000 employees in five countries and aims to cover the whole of Africa soon.
Interswitch isn’t alien to the recent buzz around blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. According to Akeem Lawal MD, Payment Processing & Switching at Interswitch, the company’s blockchain journey started about two years ago. Interswitch, as he said, is building solutions on blockchain that would help digitize financial ecosystems. One of the reasons for its integration is its virtue of ensuring the accuracy and security of a dataset that solidifies trust between parties who do not initially have a solid trust arrangement.
“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but the blockchain products we are building will solve problems regarding pan-African payment, finance, and invoice discount on the continent. The announcement will come in soon, and we have built the blockchain technology that we are also hoping to make public so people would make solutions with blockchain,” he stated.
However, cryptocurrencies which are digital currencies that have fostered the adoption of blockchain technology over the years aren’t integrated with Interswitch’s products and services in Nigeria. This is predominantly because of the ban imposed by the Federal Government on cryptocurrency trading in the country. Interswitch supports the e-naira, the digital currency adopted by the Central Bank to curtail the adoption of cryptocurrency in the country. Interswitch has helped many banks integrate the e-wallet into their mobile banking applications. It is also helping to build merchant applications for the e-naira to make payments at merchant locations.
The years of success aren’t without their challenges. The company kick-started operations when the internet was at its nascent stage in the country and all the other basic infrastructure needed for a functional payments system was lacking. This deterred many international players from coming into the country’s financial ecosystem. “But this is our country, we need to manage it as our country,” Mr. Lawal declared. To solve many of the challenges faced, Interswitch realized the need for collaboration with existing players in the industry. He explained that since its inception, Interswitch had worked hard with telecommunication companies “to the extent that ten years ago, you are often cynical of the success of your transaction when you visit a POS merchant. The situation is different now, and most of us don’t worry about failed transactions. The number of times that it fails is lesser than it was ten years ago,”
Interswitch also found it difficult to source talents to build a payment solution platform in a country that was still alien to the internet and technology. The company was left with no other choice than to look for the best and brightest young Nigerians and train them. Over the years, Interswitch has trained more than 10, 000 people, many of whom have become top bank officials, CEOs of some of the present fintech startups, and even developers working with the government to help digitize the economy.
Now the company is offering another opportunity to develop the next generation of talent and prevent the brain drain that is impacting the tech industry. The new internship programme would see the company bring in developers and create the next generation of technology experts.
For Interswitch, the concept of CSR has transcended “Corporate Philanthropy” to “Value Creation”. The platform presently supports Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math development in schools as a catalyst for innovative thinking and future solutions through its Interswitch SPAK competition that runs in Nigeria and Kenya with a plan to expand into East Africa and other countries within Africa.
“Interswitch’s story has been a story of resilience and growth. We hope to inspire the continent to greatness because nobody will build the continent for us. That has been our mission right from inception, and that is what is still driving us,” Lawal stated.