Integrating payments in Kenya, What's the fuss!
With the rise in use of mobile payment in Kenya, businesses are scrambling to put their houses in order just to keep up with the fast technological pace and the adaption of online payments by Kenyans. Kenyans at large are really interested in the outcome - an easy payment interface that hides the complex processes of integration. This process is largely a developer’s task. And this is a developer’s journey in analysing Kenyan online payment gateways and their ease of integration.
With the multiple payment gateways in Kenya, it will probably be a real hurdle for a Kenyan developer to choose the most optimal payment solution for his problem. When thinking about their choice, the very first thing that would come into their mind is the friction of onboarding and the time it would take to integrate it to a real app. Then the learning curve. They would probably think of googling for sample integration codes and reviews on the internet…they’ll think of many other things. We would like to make it easier.
This is a theoretical and technical analysis of popular Kenyan Payment Gateways, in no particular order:
M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service, launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom. Mpesa not so recently released their APIs allowing businesses and developers to intergrate their payment services. This saw the launch of their first generation API which they dubbed “G2” that led to a great shift in MPESA adoption. G2 was however a painful and utterly unfriendly API to integate to, with VPN setups and SOAP protocol on asynchronous and sychronous requests being the biggest pain points. Then, most recently, MPESA launched “Daraja” their new RESTful API managed by Apigee, the API management platform recently acquired by Google. This promises better experience and easier integration.
There is documentation for Daraja Mpesa APIs and a sandbox for testing. The documentation is slightly flawed in that the paramenters are not clearly described and one would have to jump a few huddles before getting around them. There are no provided examples for the request parameters which adds to the struggle. The credentials expire in an hour so for testing one would have to constantly renew them. Simply put, Daraja still has a bit to do to live up to its promise
Pesapal is one of the better known payment gateways and has been around for a while. A pesapal wallet allows a merchant to accept payments from mobile money, cards and select mobile banking accounts. The API’s main integration method is via page redirection.
Official plugins are provided for Magento, Shopify and WHMCS. Code samples are provided for .NET and PHP.
An IPN (instant payment notification) endpoint together with related query endpoints are available. Pesapal also provides a demo site with both personal and merchant accounts to test integration. It is however missing direct payment endpoints typical of most API based solutions that you can call to perform actions such as querying, withdrawals etc.
iPay provides mobile money (Mpesa, Airtel and EazzyPay) and credit card integrations. The API can be consumed either through ‘Web-based integration’ which is a page redirect to their website or ‘REST API integration’. Plugins for the major CMSs are provided, as well as an android library.
Documentation is provided though it could certainly be done better. The test credentials could be a bit more obvious as one would need some time to figure them out.
The API requires an HMAC signature to be sent along with the payload. With parameters having to be concatenated in a particular order for this to work, it can be more than a slight annoyance. The shortened parameter names do not help either. It worked but took a while.
4. Africa’s Talking
Africa’s talking provides Restful APIs for integration with their various services. These services include; SMS, voice, Payments, USSD, and Airtime. Our point of focus was mainly their payment services. Customer to Business (C2B), Business to Customer (B2C), and Business to business (B2B). The services are offered over mobile, banks and cards. There are client SDKs for PHP, Python, C#, Java, JS, and Ruby. For mobile payments, Africa’s talking does the hosting and one needs a dedicated pay bill with Safaricom M-Pesa (application process takes approximately 5 days). They do not offer any other mobile payment services. The bank payment and card payment services are currently only available in Nigeria. The accepted cards are MasterCard and Verve cards. Africa’s talking offers a sandbox, a simulator and associated endpoints for testing. On integration one also gets a dashboard on which they can monitor transactions and carry out other maintenance services such as getting credentials for authentication and creating products.
5. Jambo Pay
Jambopay has two ways for integrating with their API; ‘Express Checkout’ and ‘Redirect Checkout’. Express checkout allows the customer to complete payment within the site while redirect checkout loads a Jambopay provided page to complete payment. For each a PHP and .NET library are provided. A pdf document in the downloaded zip file is the entirety of the documentation to be found. Without documentation it was not possible to test out the API.
6. Sapama Cash
Sapama cash supports payments made via Equitel and Mpesa only. Getting an account with Sapama Cash can also be a hurdle. However, they provide credentials for their test account which you can use to test out their C2B, B2C and other APIs. Something else about their system is that once you login with their test credetials, you are provided with html forms which you use to fill in your API parameters and callback urls. They probably might be using this to cater to the less tech-savvy individuals, people who are used to html forms. It would make things easier for them and make them less concerned about the kind of language to use when interacting with their APIs. However, their form submit buttons result to error pages as of this publication.
They have a documentation that seems easy to follow the only problem being that their endpoints result to error pages that exposes too much information about their system, simply put as poor exception handling and security.
Jenga can be referred to as an all in one payment gateway. It has managed to integrate major payment channels used in Kenya including card payments, Mpesa, PayPal, Amex, Airtel Money, Equitel, bank payments, AliPay, Masterpass. It has also managed to go beyond the borders to countries like Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda. Having a test account with them enables you to test their APIs for sending money within Equity, sending money across multiple banks via PesaLink, sending money from bank to mobile wallets via PesaLink, perfoming cross-border remittances with SWIFT, performing common account ops like checking account balance, getting an account’s full statement; performing utility bill payments, performing loan services like credit worthiness of an individual, airtime purchases etc.
Another added feature of Jenga System is that you can actually partner with them to become a reseller. We haven’t tried this but you are free to give it a try.
The annoying thing about them is the process of getting a testing account. It requires one to fill out an application form that won’t be responded to immediately. It took them 3 days to actually okay the application and this was only after engagements with their support personnel.
Nevertheless, they have a relatively easy to follow documentation of their APIs and a Postman Collection! They also provide sample credentials on their documentation. You can actually test their APIs with their sample credentials if you don’t want to apply for a test account. If you need to test the APIs with your test account credentials, you have to authenticate your requests. You have to generate a digital signature using RSA and sign your requests using it. Instructions for this are found on their documentation.
Lipisha is a payment service provider that allows integration through webhooks, popular e-commerce Plugins, and RestAPIs. The details on integration through plugins is not available. The APIs allow integration of mobile and card payment services. The available option for mobile payment services is M-Pesa. The endpoints also allow integration of payout services to clients’ mobile wallet. The documentation could be made clearer for all the services Lipisha can provide. They offer a sandbox for testing and the endpoints can be tested manually using postman.
The experience with Kopokopo integration was unsuccessful. You need to send them copies of your ID and business registration documents for review before getting a testing account with them and trying out their APIs. However, they support RESTful API posts and FTP file serving system - you can setup your own FTP server or use their FTP server. What happens with this kind of FTP system is that K2(KopoKopo) generates csv files having transaction details and sends them to your configured FTP server, you can then parse the csv files however you like.
They support payments in Mpesa, Masterpass and T-Kash.
Beyonic is focused on mobile money integrations. With their API you can receive money and make payments in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Rwanda.
There are official client libraries for Python, Ruby and PHP with code samples for Java. There is a Woo-Commerce plugin for integrating with Wordpress sites, and beta integration with Zapier. The API is well documented with helpful pointers for the developer to follow.
At the time of testing, the test environment seemed to be in maintenance. Being unable to load BXC(Beyonic test currency) we couldn’t test the payments endpoints. It was still possible to test some collection endpoints using the documented test numbers.
12. Direct Pay
DirectPay formerly known as 3G direct has services spanning across more than 10 countries namely Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Ghana, Mauritius, South Africa, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda. We managed to create an account with DPO’s platform but never proceeded to testing because of lack of documentation. We couldn’t get a word from them.
Mpayer is another payment gateway that has been around for a couple of years. It provides payment services for businesses and organizations through Mpesa, Airtel Money and Cash transfers. In addition, it provides tools for analysing business performance, managing the business activities and customer engangement, useful in client centric busineses like microfinance organisation and educational institutions. Uniquely, it has a very unconventional onboarding process where customers can sign up through an MPESA transaction and activate a wallet immediately.
It provides a JSON and XML RESTful API that’s currently available to customers only, meaning that ther is no test environment. The authentication protocol used is WSSE. Public documentation is not available, neither is any sample integration code. This makes it difficult for one to test. MPAYER has and interesting role structure with one of the users roles being a teller or branch. Tellers can process transcations and have access to transacton API calls, that is making deposits, transfers, withdrawals. Other none tranasction API endpoints are available to other roles.
Mula is a payment gateway that was recently developed by Cellulant targetting both ordinary users and online merchants. It supports a range of payment methods from mobile payments like Mpesa, Airtel Money to Cards and Banks across 33 African countries. So, if you are an online merchant and/or fintech developer looking into integrating a checkout gateway that supports a wide range of payment methods in Africa, stop searching!
Ordinary users can interact with Mula to pay for bills and buy airtime via USSD code *369#, mobile app and Website.
Mula onboarding requires you to send your integration to the Mula support team for review before making that first production transaction.
On a scale of 1-5, here are the findings based on the following features:
- Developer friendly
- Multiple Libraries
|Gateway||Developer friendly||Documentation||Accesibility||Multiple Libraries||Testability||Aggregate|
|Cellulant - Mula||4||4||4||2||4||4|
Here’s a table that summarizes the functionality. I believe this will help you save some time:
|Gateway||Rest API||Plugins||IPN||Page Redirects||Testing bed||Payment Method supported|
|Africas Talking||Yes||No||yes||No||yes||Mobile(mpesa),Card(Master and verve cards, available only in nigeria)|
|Lipisha||Yes||yes||yes||No||yes||Mpesa,visa, mastercard, airtelmoney,Discover, easywallet, EcoCash|
|pesapal||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||M-Pesa, Airtel Money, Yu Cash, MTN money, Vodacom, Co-op Mobile, Eazzy 24/7, Visa, MasterCard|
|Sapama Cash||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Equitel, Mpesa|
|Kopokopo||No||No||Yes||No||No||Mpesa, Masterpass, Tkash|
|Jenga||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||Visa, MC, JCB, Maestro, Diners club, CUP, AMEX, Paypal, Airtel Money, Mpesa, Equitel, PesaLink, RTGS, SWIFT|
|Jambopay||No||No||No||Yes||No||Mpesa, Credit/Debit card, Airtel Money, kenswitch|
|iPay||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Mpesa, Credit/Debit card, Equitel, Airtel Money, kenswitch|
|Rave||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Mpesa, Credit/Debit card|
|Cellulant - Mula||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Mpesa, Airtel, Card Payment, Banks, MTN, Tigo|
The list doesn’t end there. There are other gateways that exist that are not quite mainstream payment processers. However they do enable customers to get paid in kenya via various payment channels. These could be payment integrator companies or niche market gateways. Some notable mentions include:
Corporate and enterprise focused providers.
Niche Market Gateways
We’ll be looking out for other gateways if we have left out any.