Cookshop.biz, Liberia’s online destination for food, has begun accepting online payments, marking the first time online payments will be processed by a local merchant bank in Liberia. This important milestone means that the company’s customers can order food online using both domestic and international credit and debit cards, and Cookshop will receive the payments directly into their local bank account. This sets the stage for local e-commerce in
Liberia, and is an important step in the progress of the nation’s ICT sector.
The Cookshop team was able to achieve this using United Bank for Africa (UBA) U-Collect payment gateway. Payment gateways transmit data over the Internet to card associations and credit card processing companies, connecting merchants, cardholders, and financial institutions, and offering the assurance of secure transactions and timely payments.
Prior to this, if a Liberian business wished to receive online payments, that business would need to establish a foreign account connected to a payment gateway, and later transfer collected funds into a Liberian bank account at a cost. However, international monetary transfers are incredibly expensive, and fall under heavy scrutiny due to anti-money laundering laws, high risk assessments, lack of banking relationships, economic sanctions, and international and domestic financial laws and regulations. With the U-Collect a payment gateway for VISA and MasterCard, Cookshop.biz has moved past this hurdle for local businesses to join the global e-commerce community.
Several factors led to the online food delivery startup’s decision to use U-Collect. According to Cookshop.biz co-founder Charles Dorme Cooper, “It was important for us to choose a solution that will allow us to grow with the use of point of sale, online credit card processing, and mobile credit card processing. Furthermore, UBA’s willingness to work with us directly through the entire process was instrumental to establishing online payments in Liberia. We look forward to more collaboration in the near future.”
For co-founder Mlen-Too Wesley, the key factors were the network availability and proper security infrastructure in accordance with international standards. “U-Collect is PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant and keeps customer information safe using TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security / Secure Sockets Layer) for encryption. U-Collect also uses both three-digit CVV2 (Card Verification Value) and 3-D Secure, such as Verified by VISA and MasterCard SecureCode, to authenticate transactions. We tested the U-Collect payment gateway for months with a small group of our customers and find it to have over 99.99% uptime and to be truly safe and secure.”
Cookshop.biz has taken on the challenge to lead the growth of e-commerce in Liberia. The e-commerce market of West Africa is growing at a rapid pace, and the data/Internet market in Liberia has grown exponentially since 2013, due to the increase in smartphone adoption rate and speed of Internet connection bandwidth. In seven Sub-Saharan countries, e-commerce makes up between 1%-3% of GDP, and is predicted to make up 10% of total retail sales in key markets by 2025 according to a report by McKinsey & Company.
Continued growth of e-commerce will depend on a variety of factors including government tax policies and cross-border customs regulations, availability of adequate and secure payment solutions, shipping and handling standards and Internet access costs. The founders of Cookshop.biz are aware of the challenges ahead, and see their collaboration with UBA as one major step towards developing a truly local tech hub in Liberia.