How does the MTN Open API Benefit Innovators and Entrepreneurs

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Mr. Christopher MTN Momo

This year’s DevFest which happened at OutBoxHub as always gathered a lot of tech enthusiasts, programmers, start-up owners, technopreneurs and also well-established developers from various tech firms.

This community of developers gathers every year to discuss mainly about Google’s technologies, learn it and build products with it.

From just talking technology, the idea has always been to engage with experienced developers and people in the market through speaker sessions and sharpening the business mindset of the young developers with Start-up fireside chats. The most vital and intricate parts of the DevFests have always been the code labs, where actual algorithms are built and tested in real time to test the robustness of the programs including learning a few debugging techniques here and there.

Currently, in the tech spheres of Uganda, the big question is “How do we benefit from the open APIs”. Young developers who are building their own products and inventing applications ask, “Where do we get these open APIs from?”. “How do we monetize our innovations with these APIs?”

After MTN Uganda one of Uganda’s leading telecommunication opening up its Mobile Money Application Programming Interface (API), a lot of buzz is roaming around whether or not it really is easy to access the MTN MOMO API and the approximate time it might take from when the API has been requested to the product (API) actually going live (operating and working with a system).

The Senior Manager Mobile Financial Services Products & Innovation, MTN Uganda Christopher Ssali was around to tackle some of these questions.

My question in line with the open API was, before MTN Uganda’s MoMo API, what were developers using? Do young developers have any other options besides MTN? David Okwii from Africa Is talking helped me answer this.

Among the many questions surrounding the MTN Uganda MOMO API, here the answers you may have been looking for and how to go about incorporating the MTN MOMO API into your website, application or system.

Contents

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Why Open an API?

The growth of big companies lies on startups. After realizing a gap in the market, with many innovations but no support whatsoever to foster and catalyze them, MTN Uganda had to fill this gap with the much needed MOMO API.

“Building communities of young startups and giving them access to API’s gives ground to relationships between big companies and startups, and both parties benefit.”-  Christopher Ssali said.

In this way, developers can expand their vision as they work under the vision of MTN.

That aside, looking at the Ugandan community, how many Ugandans process payments cards (ATM Credit cards)? The idea of opening APIs was meant to foster payments for Mobile Users because currently Mobile Money payment is the easiest and most used money transaction service in Uganda.

To sum it all up, the Mobile Money idea started as a customer retention project in 2009 by MTN Uganda. At its successful stages, it was a transaction only service (Sending and Receiving money).

In a bid to change this, MTN Uganda improvised service payment as one of the many ways Mobile Money could be used. This was the epitome of Mobile Money, and this is why the need for APIs arose because businesses now sell commodities online through their websites and applications (and some offline) and so their customers paying electronically is an easy and fast way to make cashless transactions.

Benefits of the MTN Uganda MOMO API to developers?

In simple terms, an API is an algorithm which links two systems.

For example, for SafeBoda to operate effectively, it uses Google maps. The link between SafeBoda and Google maps is the Google maps API. This means that SafeBoda as a company did not have to build from scratch a map based system encompassing the parts of Uganda where it operates BUT rather depend on google maps which is an already built system.

In this same way, developers do not have to build a mobile money system from scratch BUT rather depend on MTN Uganda’s Mobile Money system with the help of the MTN MOMO API.

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The benefit of this is that MTN Uganda’s Mobile Money system has been proven to operate for over 9 years, so as a developer you are working with a product that has stood the test of time with assured security, advanced technology and well known for it’s effective by a large base of users.

We wrote a blog piece entailing more benefits of the MTN MOMO API, check it out here.

Steps on How to access the MTN MoMo API product (up to when you go live)

  • Log into the MTN MOMO developers’ platform at https://momodeveloper.mtn.com
  • Sign up with your email address and names (Your account will be created).
  • Go to the sandbox
  • You can try out using the sandbox with its different functionalities. (MTN cannot give you access as yet, because they don’t know you)
  • If you have a product, you can try inputting the necessary information on the particular API you prefer to use.
  • Press GO LIVE.
  • You will be requested to send a KYC. (KYC stands for “Know Your Customer”)

KYC includes things about you, your business and what you intend to use the API for. This is for purposes of security and ensuring that whoever plans to use the system shall not in any way be a risk.

  • Your KYC is then validated or rejected (This can be done in approximately 5 days, Mr. Christpher Ssali emphasized)
  • After validation, a contract is sent from after which you sign the product goes live.

MTN so far has 8 APIs open.

Does the MTN Uganda MOMO API work in other MTN operating countries?

MTN Uganda is the first to have an Open API, and the plans for other MTN operating countries to open their APIs are under way.

This means that after MTN opens its API in other countries, business shall be conducted cross country wise because the API shall support all MTN based countries.

Does MTN Uganda MOMO API work with other telecommunication companies (Airtel, Africell and Uganda Telecom)?

Currently, NO.

Transactions which are supported are only for MTN customers.

The success of the MTN MOMO API shall determine plans for interoperability between MTN and other telecom companies.

But this is not something to worry about, Africa Is Talking has an API platform which supports payment options for all telecoms in Uganda and 5 other African countries.

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How? It is already interoperable, and having combined forces to incorporate all these telecommunications services under their API, you don’t have to worry. This leaves the question of whether you still need the MTN MOMO API, now that there exists a 4 in 1 API (You decide)

Flutterwave is also an electronic payment solution for Africans, and it is available in East Africa. It can run via Web, Mobile, ATM and any Point of Sale (POS) in over 150 currencies and destinations worldwide, and it can be found at different KCB branches.

The question of Security.

The MTN Mobile Money System is secure.

At the sandbox level, you don’t have access to the Mobile Money APIs. All MTN Knows about you is your email address; they don’t know you yet.

It is only when your KYC has been validated (when you want to Go Live) that you can go live.

Will MTN Uganda be able to integrate with PayPal?

With many Ugandans getting payments from abroad, Mr. Christopher Ssali noted that this is among the many things MTN Uganda intends to incorporate in their new MTN MOMO API system. The goal is to be a payment solution for all Ugandans.

Does MTN Uganda regulate the business that connects to its API?

When you use the MTN MoMo API, it is not MTN Uganda that gets your data but the platform which you have directly communicated to.

MTN Uganda only gets the data which is given to it by its API users. (It only knows the information of the transactions that happen)

This is the same thing for other open API platforms.

The only way MTN regulates the businesses using its API is by not allowing them in any way to defraud its customers in line with its regulations on Mobile Money transactions.

CONCLUSION

The Open APIs are a bridge to international marketing and transactions. Developer or not, this is helpful to anyone who has in anyway used Mobile Money transactions. The open APIs shall and have revolutionized digital payments and shall build Africa’s economy drastically with interoperability.