Payment Processing – A complete guide for businesses in 2023

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Payment processing has become an indispensable aspect of almost every business in Africa today. With an increasing demand for alternative payment solutions, businesses must keep up with the times and offer their customers a seamless payment experience.

The way consumers pay for goods and services has rapidly evolved, and businesses must keep up with the changing landscape to stay ahead of the competition. In this digital age, having a seamless and secure payment process is crucial to attracting and retaining customers.

Whether you’re a small start-up or a large corporation, this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of payment processing, exploring the various types of payment methods that businesses in Africa can utilize to stay ahead of the curve.

What does Payment Processing mean?

As the name implies, payment processing is the process of accepting and processing payments from customers for goods and services. It involves multiple steps from the moment a customer places an order to the point where the merchant receives the payment. 

When you make a purchase, a whole bunch of things happens behind the scenes to get your money from your bank account to the sellers. It’s like a well-oiled machine, with a few key players playing crucial roles. 

Take payment processors for example. They’re the intermediary  between you and the seller, making sure everything runs smoothly. They handle the secure transfer of payment information and make sure the funds get from your bank account to the sellers. This way, the seller can finally get paid for their goods or services.

How does payment processing work for businesses?

Have you ever wondered what really happens when your customer makes a purchase? Sure, swiping, tapping, or dipping your card seems simple enough, but there’s actually a whole lot more going on behind the scenes.

1. Making a purchase:

Whether in a restaurant, online, or ordering for delivery, the customer has an array of payment options which is clearly communicated. The first action is choosing a preferred mode of payment. These days, more transactions are cashless with payment transfers, credit or debit cards, and other digital payment options.

2. Payment gateway time:

This is the secure connection that sends payment information from the bank to the merchant’s account. It usually follows a quick yes or no on whether your payment was accepted.

3.Processor to the rescue:

Payment processors act as messengers, delivering the payment information from a bank to the merchant’s account.

4. Issuing bank check-in:

This is the credit card’s home bank, and they make sure your card is secure and the payment goes through.

5. Money transfer:

If all checks out, the payment processing company moves the funds from the bank to the merchant’s account. And just like that, the payment process is complete. 

7 Most Common Methods of Payment Processing

Payment processing methods have evolved over time with the rise of technology. There are several ways to process payments, each with its own pros and cons.

  1. Mobile Payments

Mobile payment has been rapidly adopted in Africa, and it has become a significant driver of financial inclusion and economic growth. In many African countries, mobile payment systems have leapfrogged traditional payment methods, providing access to payment services for millions of people who were previously unbanked.

  1. Credit and Debit Cards: 

 This is one of the most common forms of online payment. You can either swipe, dip, or tap your card at a point-of-sale terminal, or enter your card details online.

  1. Online Payment Gateways: 

Online payment gateways like Tingg, PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net provide a secure connection between your website and the customer’s bank. Customers can make payments directly from their bank accounts or with credit/debit cards.

  1. Mobile Wallets: 

Mobile wallets like Paga, MTN Mobile Money, Mpesa allow customers to store their credit and debit card information on their mobile devices. Payments are made by simply tapping the phone at the point of sale terminal.

  1. Bank Transfers: 

This is a direct transfer of funds from the customer’s bank account to the merchant’s account. It’s a secure option but can take longer to process compared to other methods. 

  1. Digital Currency: 

Digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum allow customers to make secure, fast, and low-cost transactions without the need for a middleman.

  1. Cash and Checks: 

These traditional forms of payment are still accepted by many businesses. They are secure and easy to use but can take longer to process compared to other methods.

Businesses can choose a combination of these payment methods to cater to the needs of their customers. With the right payment processing system in place, businesses can provide a seamless and secure payment experience for their customers.

What is the importance of Payment processing?

Payment processing is like the secret sauce behind every successful transaction – the unsung hero if you will. Gone are the days of waiting in line and counting out cash, now a simple swipe of a finger can make the magic happen. 

It’s the glue that brings together the customer, the business, the card network, and the bank to make sure everyone walks away happy

Here are the untold importance of payment processing 

  1.  Increases sales: By offering customers the ability to pay with credit and debit cards, businesses can tap into a wider customer base and increase sales.
  2. Boosts security: Payment processing services use encryption and other security measures to protect sensitive financial information, reducing the risk of fraud and data breaches.
  3. Saves time: With payment processing, transactions are completed quickly and efficiently, freeing up business owners to focus on other tasks.
  4. Improves cash flow: Payment processing allows businesses to receive payment quickly and easily, improving cash flow and reducing the need for manual reconciliation.
  5. Enhances customer experience: With fast, convenient payment options, customers are more likely to have a positive experience and return for future purchases.
  6. Streamlines operations: Payment processing integrates with other business systems, such as invoicing and accounting, making it easier to manage transactions and financial data.

In short, payment processing is a must-have for businesses looking to succeed in today’s fast-paced, digital world. By providing a quick, secure, and convenient way for customers to pay, businesses can boost sales, reduce risk, and improve operations.

What to consider when choosing a payment processing platform

When picking a payment processing platform, these key factors will help you choose the right one for your business:

  1. Payment Types: Does the platform offer all the payment methods you need, like cards, mobile wallets, and bank transfers?
  2. Fees: Compare the platform’s fees to others and make sure they’re transparent and competitive.
  3. Security: Prioritize a platform with strong security measures, like encryption and fraud protection, to keep your customers’ data safe.
  4. Integration: Make sure the platform integrates with your existing systems, like your website and accounting software.
  5. Support: What kind of customer support is available and does it meet your needs?
  6. User Experience: How easy is it to use the platform, both for you and your customers?
  7. Reputation: Do research and check reviews to ensure the platform is reliable and trustworthy.

How to choose a payment processor

Choosing a payment processor just got easier with this concise list of factors to consider:

  1. Payment Types: Make sure the processor covers all the payment methods you need, from credit/debit cards to mobile wallets and bank transfers.
  2. Fees: Compare fees across processors and opt for one with transparent and competitive rates.
  3. Security: Keep customer data secure with a processor that uses encryption and anti-fraud measures.
  4. Integration: Ensure smooth business operations by selecting a processor that integrates with your website or accounting software.
  5. Customer Support: A reliable processor should offer top-notch support to meet your business needs.
  6. User Experience: Opt for a processor with a user-friendly interface and efficient payment process.
  7. Reputation: Trustworthiness is key, so research the processor’s reputation and read reviews from other businesses.

By following this guide, you’ll find the perfect payment processor that fits your business needs and guarantees seamless, secure transactions.


In conclusion, the world of payment processing is rapidly evolving and it’s crucial for businesses to stay ahead of the curve. From the numerous payment types available, to the security measures, to the integration options and customer support, it’s important to make an informed decision when choosing a payment processor.

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