Paystack and Shopify: Circa 2016

Joel Bronkowski
4 min readJul 14, 2020

I’m going to tell you a story of my convergence with Paystack. Spoiler alert, I now work at Paystack but let’s go back in time to the year 2016. Simpler times.

eCommerce in Africa

I was living in London and working for Shopify. I was tasked with leading a small team that was tasked with growing Shopify via partnerships. Originally from the states, I’d spent the better part of previous decade living in South Africa. And while I was enjoying London life, my heart and passion was always with our beloved continent.

Unfortunately while eCommerce is growing exponentially in Africa it wasn’t an easy sell to invest time in Africa so I was always scheming to find small side projects that could have an impact. I decided to do a few keyword searches on Twitter of all places. ‘Shopify Africa’, ‘Shopify South Africa’, ‘Shopify Nigeria’ and then I found a super interesting post from just a few weeks about Paystack having just built a Shopify integration. Long story short, Shopify often requires a payment provider to reach a certain amount of business before making them an official partner, Paystack wasn’t there yet.

Intro to Paystack

Paystack was the first company accepted into Y Combinator from Nigeria and was making a lot of noise in the fintech world. They were the kind of company I could tell would be easy to work with and so I quickly replied to the Tweet and it wasn’t 24 hours before I was on a call with Paystack’s CEO Shola Akinlade. Our 30 minute call turned into 60 and within two weeks we had TechCrunch dialled in to share the news, Nigeria’s first Shopify integration. Nigerian twitter went mad, I’m pretty sure 50% of my followers are still from that one move. Today hundreds of businesses are using Shopify in Nigeria and it’s one of the fastest growing platforms in Nigeria and the continent. While all this growth is exciting, it still has a long way to go.

Last year I moved back to South Africa to hit a bit of reset button and to refocus my attention on setting up a consultancy focused on eCommerce in Africa. Guess who was at the top of my list to call? You guessed it, Mr Akinlade. We had several calls about roles I could play in helping Paystack and I had the chance to meet more of the team. The more engagements I had with the team, the more excited I got about the prospect of working with Paystack. The vision felt authentic and the calibre of the team assembled was impressive. Shola invited me to Lagos to meet the team, I was hardly prepared for all that I would experience. And just like that, a potential consulting gig turned into an offer from Paystack.

Shopify + Paystack in Ghana

Alright, now to the point of this post. Today I’m excited to share that as part of Paystack we’ve paved a way for local payments in a new market for Shopify. Ghanaian’s can now handle transactions in their local currency (Cedis) and using the beloved payment method Mobile Money.

Just before the Covid-19 crisis I spent 2 weeks in Accra, Ghana and got to experience the excitement around all things tech and eCommerce. Meeting after meeting with developers, startups and tech leaders we picked up on two strong themes.

The first is that anything related to commerce needs to be built to enable mobile money. Led by telecommunications companies mobile money makes it easier than ever for people to pay for goods from their phone (tied to their number) and also to access cash from the thousands of small distributors across the country. The second thing we heard is that eCommerce while exciting and emerging, it’s still in it’s infancy. Trust in payments and reliable logistics remain as big blockers for consumers. While Ghana has come a long way and some big players like Jumia have propelled eCommerce forward it’s not the norm for businesses to build online stores. I suppose this is part of what makes the time we live in and being part of commerce in Africa so exciting. The building blocks are being formed now and payments sits at the center of so many other things that have to come together for digital commerce.

If there was ever a time where businesses where digital payments and eCommerce were propelled forward it’s now. All that remains is eroding the barriers for individuals and businesses, one of which is the lack of easy to use and affordable eCommerce platforms to get started. For countries like Ghana and much of Africa there’s a lot of things that need to come together for eCommerce platforms to be viable and broadly accepted. It’s not surprising to me that platforms like WooCommerce, Magento and Open Cart cover 90% of all eComm sites because they can be localised easily via open source developers. Part of what the likes of Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, Squarespace and all the hosted eCommerce solutions great is the curated and controlled environment they’ve created. Unfortunately the majority of these solutions are either not available with localized payment options or are just too expensive for businesses.

Looking Forward

Shopify now having Paystack as a local payment option in Ghana is a big step forward for eCommerce in Ghana. The world’s most advanced eCommerce platform can now be used to handle MoMo (mobile money) and power businesses in Ghana. If we look back at how far eCommerce has come in the past 10 years I cannot imagine what the landscape will look like in the next 10. I feel very fortunate to play a small part in advocating for solutions and facilitating relationships that will continue to help people share their products with the world and create opportunities for more people.