A lot has been said about why Paypal, the biggest online payment system in the world, continues to limit its features in Africa. Some have even suggested that Africans should create their own e-payment service, tailored for the business environment in Africa. As some African geeks are trying to come up with their own solutions, it is interesting to see the emergence of  the Ukash service, currently the world’s fastest growing prepaid-cash issuing network.

Headquartered in London, United Kingdom, Ukash is available in more than 30 countries mainly in Europe and South America. So far South Africa is the only African country offering Ukash services.  Their electronic money system is authorized by the Financial Services Authority in the United Kingdom.

How it Works
In order to use Ukash services, you have to buy a Ukash voucher from hundreds of thousands of global locations such as corner shops, post offices, news stands, petrol stations and where you see the PayPoint, payzone or e-pay signs in the UK. Cash in amounts up to £500 can be swapped for a Ukash voucher.

In countries where they do not currently issue Ukash directly from stores, the vouchers can be obtained from a number of globally authorised resellers. In fact, they are continuously looking for organisations operating in specific geographical regions or sectors, such as VoIP, to distribute Ukash in return for a commission.

The Ukash voucher contains a unique 19 digit number and the amount depicting the value of the voucher. It is valid for one year.  It can be used to pay for goods and services online. You can even get change if you spend less than your Ukash value. You can also combine multiple values of your Ukash into a single amount and have your new Ukash number and value emailed to you if you want.

To ensure that the users’ experiences are easy, safe and convenient, they have put together some hints and tips to keep your Ukash safe. Some of the tips are as follows:

  • Treat your Ukash voucher code just like cash.
  • Only use Ukash with merchants listed at the Ukash website.
  • Never use Ukash to pay for items purchased from classified ads or give the voucher code to anyone else.
  • Only Combine, Split or Convert your vouchers using Ukash Tools.

Interested in accepting online Ukash payments?
This is the part that will excite African online entrepreneurs. Ukash gives merchants access to new customers who can’t or won’t transact online today. Ukash provides the following benefits:

  • No chargebacks or fraud as Ukash assures funds to you
  • Fast ROI due to ease of integration and choice of methods
  • Access to international customers; single integration for all currencies and Countries.
  • The ability to reach new customers regardless of their age or credit status.

If you’d like to start offering Ukash as an alternative way for your customers to pay, you can get more information from here.

Why I like Ukash
Ukash offers many advantages, which make it suitable for consumers and merchants in low income countries. These advantages are as follows:

  • It is free for Ukash voucher users.
  • There is no age restriction.
  • There is no need to fear identity theft.
  • There is no need to disclose your bank details.
  • There is no need for a credit card to shop online.
  • It offers great flexibility – You can split your Ukash into smaller amounts, combine into larger amounts or convert into other currencies.

As evidenced by cellular phone companies, prepaid payment systems work better than credit based systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ukash is, therefore, an ideal payment medium for this region.

Ukash is already available in South Africa. Recently, they have partnered with Shoprite, making Ukasho vouchers available in 560 stores in South Africa. From here, it will be very easy to spread to other African countries.