2016 marked the tenth anniversary of 3G Direct Pay, which we recently celebrated by doing a complete rebranding as Direct Pay Online. We are extremely pleased that our credit card processing and mobile payment platforms have grown successfully, and that we have developed strong partnerships with African travel businesses to provide safe, secure, fast, reliable, and multi-device payment solutions.
Because I work with hundreds of businesses within the African tourism industry, I have intimate knowledge of the industry and an ability to identify the trends that define it.
For 2017 (including Q4 2016), these five tenets will drive the travel industry in Africa forward, as I see it:
1. Increased prevalence of mobile payments in Africa
As the biggest mobile-first continent, Africa’s dependence on mobile phones will strengthen even more later this year, as smartphones with larger screens become more commonplace, security improves, and mobile payments advance and become more widely used. According to studies, the number of mobile users in Africa is continuing to grow.
For these reasons, and as we discussed recently in this blog post, travel businesses on the continent must embrace a mobile-first business philosophy, invest in a mobile-responsive website, and implement a mobile payment app (or other mobile payment solution) in order to grow in line with the development of our mobile-first continent.
2. Improvement of cross-border payments in Africa
In the past, travelers had difficulty with cross-border payments in Africa. That is, a traveler from Kenya would have difficulty booking and paying for a hotel in Rwanda or a rental car in Tanzania.
Since the establishment of the East African Community (EAC), cross-border payments in Africa have improved greatly. Now travelers can easily use a mobile payment platform to complete transactions in their local currency.
The improvement of this system enables African travel businesses to access millions of customers throughout Africa with an offering that overcomes the challenges of currency exchange and liquidity that can sometimes occur mid-travel.
3. Strengthening of credit card payments
Mobile payments in Africa will continue to be the payment type of choice on our cashless continent, but credit card payments are also gaining acceptance by our population, which was previously hesitant to trust a credit card payment model.
While the credit card companies and banks continue to invest in education to fight technology aversion and security concerns, our infrastructure gets more and more robust. As the African tourism industry encourages credit card payments, these improvements will help propel growth in the sector.
4. Increased use of technology
On a continent with high illiteracy rates, the increased use of technology is as equally surprising as it is promising. Our young middle class is growing and their openness to technology is fueling our growth as an industry and as a people. As our population becomes more comfortable with technologies in general, they will more readily accept advancements like a mobile payment app that will empower them to automatically book their travel services from their mobile phones.
5. Improved infrastructure
Of course, any mobile payment solution or other technological advancement that can boost the African tourism industry is heavily reliant on a cellular and internet infrastructure. As our governments and telecoms invest in improving the backbone of the technology, we will all benefit from the improvements.
CNN reports that currently, a staggering 93% of Africans have access to a cell phone and Vodaphone explains that in Africa, “governments have decided to ‘leapfrog’ fixed-line infrastructure, instead of encouraging investment in more scalable and flexible mobile networks.”
These investments by governments and businesses mean good news for African travelers, and by association, for the African tourism industry.
Paving the road to growth
In Africa, things are complex. It is rarely a single element that drives significant advancement. The current ecosystem, however, has given rise to these five elements that work together to be the catalyst of change.
- The increased prevalence of mobile payments in Africa give travelers a popular and convenient way to pay for travel throughout the continent.
- Improved cross-border payments in Africa allow us to freely access accommodations and other bookings in neighboring countries.
- Strengthening of credit card payments will give more Africans even more flexibility in how they reserve and pay for their travel services.
- Increased use of technology by the African people will establish greater acceptance of mobile payment solutions and increase the reach of travel businesses.
- Improved technological infrastructure, with investment by governments and conglomerates, will give us the technological backbone we need to encourage travel for business and pleasure.
As I see it, the combination of these factors creates a bright future for travel and tourism businesses in Africa.