FinTech startups, an umbrella term for tech-enabled financial services companies, are reconstructing the global financial sector. Nigeria, Africa’s unofficial FinTech capital, saw $360 million in FinTech investment in November 2019. About one-third of all the money venture-backed startups in the entire continent raised in 2018.
By building up a historically underdeveloped industry, the trailblazers of Africa’s Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment sector are reshaping how people on the continent move money. With only 23 commercial banks and the largest one only having about 12 million users, a significant number of Nigeria’s 200 million people are unbanked or underbanked.
Over the next five years, the mobile money market is expected to grow substantially, reaching $73 billion by 2025. Although front runners are laying the foundation for Nigeria’s digital future, a lot of the market is still untapped, leaving room for new players to enter.
Founded in 2019, Abeg is putting its unique stamp on Nigeria’s P2P industry. Its mobile application gives users the ability to request and send money to friends, all the while receiving entertainment from their humorous content.
I spoke with Shedrack Akintayo, Senior Front-end Engineer at Abeg, about building a FinTech startup, differentiating Abeg in Nigeria’s P2P payment services space, and Tech in Africa.
How do you translate the requirements of a specific business problem into code?
In my three years of experience as a software developer, I’ve worked on some large applications across various continents, Europe, America, and Africa. Two philosophies guide my approach to translating requirements into code. First, I think about how to make whatever I’m doing as simple as possible, which often leads me to consider the best practices.
Second, divide and conquer. I separate the complex parts from the simple parts. I tackle simple tasks that I know I can quickly get done. Then I spend the rest of my time focusing on the complex parts. I use this model because the progress from tackling the simple task motivates me to take on the complex tasks.
How important is empathy in the software development process?
Empathy is crucial. It’s something I emphasize whenever I’m building a product. You have to think about the end-user. You have to put yourself in their shoes to build a product that they will love. My approach to ensure I’m empathetic during the software development process is by asking questions.
I like to hear from users. Whether it’s finding out what features are important to them or understanding their thoughts around our current features. Pre-prototype, I try to get an understanding of how they would use the product. Post-prototype, I watch them use the product because although you can guess, without asking, you’ll never be 100% sure how the user will use your product. So I diligently observe, document my findings, and then give it back to the team.
For Abeg, we have a great product designer. Before we started developing, he studied our various competitions and analyzed the unique features/things about them. We applied the best practices and implemented them in our unique way. Our primary target audience is college students, so we’re incorporating local content and humor that Nigerians can relate to, to keep them engaged with the platform.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the software development process?
There are currently five people on the Abeg team, Product designer, Mobile developer, Back-end developer, Content developer, and myself, and most of us have full-time jobs. Initially, we struggled to balance our full-time job and build Abeg. Writing code wasn’t really the issue because we have a great team, but scheduling time to write the code was a big problem. Now, we’ve figured out how to schedule our time to work on the product, and things are progressing nicely. We’re hoping to launch by the end of Q1.
What do you believe are the keys to being a successful software developer in Africa?
To be successful, you have to know your craft. In Africa, we have a lot of people trying to get into the software engineering space, so there is a lot of competition. You have to be consistent and intentional in how you develop your craft. You have to find ways to stay relevant, whether it’s pushing out new products or getting involved in the Tech scene. When you remain consistent, opportunities come your way.
How I differentiate myself, is branding on social media. I’ve gotten a lot of jobs due to my social media profile because I keep it up to date with my current and previous work experience. People have the opportunity to see what I’m currently doing or get a sense of what I can do based on my past work. This gives them a certain level of comfort when they reach out to me because they’re confident in what I can produce.
Built In Africa? What does that mean to you, and how are you involved in the Lagos tech community?
In the software development industry, people need to understand that Africa is killing it. There are so many Africans pushing out important products that people use every single day. There’s a lot of sound engineers and designers here in Lagos; we have a big tech community. I’m involved in Facebook Developers Circles here in Lagos. I’m a member of the Google developer group, I’m also part of the organizing team for Open Source Community Africa and Open Source Festival.
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