Waiting is good. But it is tiring. If you know what you are waiting for, and why you are waiting, with joy you will wait. A groom waits for his bride. A pupil waits for after-school chocolate. The president-elect waits for the baton. These waiters have the assurance of why they are waiting. They know what comes after the wait. But what do you do when your delay is uncertain, untimely, and unending? What do you do when it destroys the trust between two partners? There is no joy in waiting. Users of digital channels have endured the agony of waiting. That is the trend. That is the way it is.
On The One Hand
in 2022, making payments digitally was the best thing after ChatGPT. Click the send button. Your transactions were delivered. Blink. The recipients called to acknowledge the payments. Digital payment had such a high level of efficiency. And consistency. This regularity had built trust between millions of partners and parties. The trust was mutual. Could it be eternal? The parties were sure the electronic transactions would deliver. Instantly. When digital payments moved at the speed of thought, businesses flourished. The delivery channels were super. Optimal.
The advent of the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) Instant Payment gateway (NIP) has raised the bar. The plethora of USSD codes from the banks’ Fintech department sent the ecosystem into a frenzy. Experts hailed these modern inventions as the best thing after electricity. We were quick to jump on the bank wagon. We had millions of reasons to use the codes. Do you want to top up your phone? Done. Do you need to recharge your cable television? Done. Is paying your salon subscription a bother? Not anymore! Nothing comes close to the codes. Do you want instant payment delivery? Send it through NIP. NIP does not fail. It cannot fail! We were in a cashless paradise. Or so we thought. Until the devil crept into the naira redesign policy.
On The Other Hand
In 2023, some banker-friends said the country was the first to develop instant payment, that even America does not have it, that Australia got it in 2022, and that we should be grateful to the e-payment gods! Well said. But the e-payment gods and priests are disappointingly embarrassing lately. The e-payment gods are on holiday. They are not likely to return soon. The shrine is empty. It is in darkness. There is no fire. There is no oil. There is no goat. The e-payment worshippers are agitated. They are waiting for the priests. No one knows when he would say yes. Is the wait worth it?
A software engineer-friend said the banks’ servers need replacements. The software needs an upgrade. This should have happened 36 months ago. The banks have not done so. This is the reason we are experiencing several failed transactions. The banks made provision for a year of “capital expenditure as opposed to a lifetime of built-in budgets with recurring maintenance.”
She shared a story. One of the FUGAZ banks was ready to switch on a particular service. The service would accommodate 40,000 transactions in one hour. “We felt we would not get up to 10, 000 transactions in a day. Then we switched on the feature. We had 400,000 transactions in one hour. Everything crashed. It took two weeks to recover. We had to start from the beginning.”
Are we not having a similar experience? What has happened to our networks? What is the matter with our switches? Why are the ATMs not working? Are they available? Do we have to “manage it like that” (MILT)?
“One financial institution is too small to build the infrastructure for scale. It is not economically feasible. Our financial institutions are too small to afford it. Even if they can, it will be prohibitive to build it during a crisis,” she said.
In The Short Term
I was in a fuel station. Two queues emerged. Line A and B. Line A was shorter. Line B was longer. Within minutes, the motorists on line B had disappeared.
They paid cash.
What happened to line A?
We were the victims of the cashless transaction! We were waiting for the network to be restored#