Graphcard Offers Online Payment Solutions To Africa

Within a span of just 15 years since its widespread introduction, the Internet has radically changed the face of the world. The number of Internet users on the African continent is currently estimated to number almost 23 million. Globally, the number of Internet users exceeds 1 billion – representing approximately one-sixth of the world’s population – and tens of thousands of new users are being added daily.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way in which modern societies exchange information and ideas. But it has also dramatically altered the way in which trade is conducted. With a series of computer mouse clicks, millions of e-commerce transactions are executed each with blinding speed. For small merchants and large international retailers alike, the Internet is becoming an increasingly important part of their business models, and those companies who have not yet entered the Information Superhighway are now scrambling to get up to speed.

Growing Markets with Growing Frustrations

Industry experts estimate that approximately 90% of all online purchases made today involve the use of credit cards. Yet, for one-third of all Internet users – particularly those in the developing nations of Africa – the lack of accessibility to credit cards poses a significant barrier to engaging in e-commerce. To complicate matters, widespread incidences of fraud and criminal activity involving credit cards have caused many consumers to be wary of disclosing sensitive personal information online.

Many African financial institutions currently issue debit cards that are affiliated with major international payment networks such as MasterCard and Visa. However, the issuing banks often fail to inform cardholders that even though their bank accounts may be properly funded, their debit cards may not be accepted for online transactions. In recent months, many consumers have attempted to make online purchases with debit cards, only to learn that their transactions have been rejected by a merchant or a payment processor because the cardholders reside in a country or region that has been placed on a “watch list” for potential fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, this practice has resulted in many well-meaning and law-abiding African citizens being victimized by prejudice. Furthermore, this practice serves to restrain Africans from enjoying the economic prosperity they rightfully deserve.

Other third party payment processors such as eBay’s PayPal and Google’s GBuy have made significant progress in capturing market share for online payments – particularly in the United States – and continue to seek new customers. However, these companies continue to rely predominantly on the use of credit cards to function. As a result, millions of consumers around the world without credit cards – but with significant disposable incomes – are unable to make online purchases, severely restricting commerce and closing off entire markets.

A Solution Is Born

One U.S.-based company has set out specifically to meet the needs of online shoppers who have limited access to traditional means of payment such as credit cards. The solution is known as “Graphcard” – a revolutionary online payment system designed exclusively for use in e-commerce applications. Available to Internet users in over 260 countries, Graphcard employs “virtual” prepaid cards that can be easily used to make online payments. The virtual nature of Graphcard eliminates the expense and security risks involved in shipping tangible plastic cards to users. Instead, cardholders simply fund their accounts in advance through a variety of means, including purchasing credit through a partner-reseller,  personal checks, electronic funds transfers from checking or savings accounts, Western Union wire transfers or money orders. Once their Graphcard account has been sufficiently funded, the consumer can then initiate online purchases without the need for a credit card.

Graphcard operates independently of the major global payment systems, but maintains strategic back-end partnerships with several payment processors in order to expedite funds transfers on an as-needed basis. For added flexibility, Graphcard members have the ability to easily convert their funds to a non-personalized prepaid debit card online for a small fee. This option further expands the number of online merchants where Graphcard customers can shop. The lack of personally identifiable information offers consumers an added layer of protection from the perils of identity theft.

Graphcard Fosters Financial Equality

Unlike bank-issued credit and debit cards – which are typically available only to individuals with well-documented credit histories or significant financial means – Graphcard is available to all consumers. The only prerequisite is a consumer’s ability to fund their Graphcard account in advance of making online purchases.

In short, Graphcard offers shoppers the flexibility of a prepaid spending card for online purchases without the hassles normally encountered with bank-issued credit and debit cards. The powerful result is that a consumer in Abuja can now easily make an online purchase from a merchant in London without worrying about experiencing prejudice on credit-related matters. A business owner in Casablanca can quickly order and pay for inventory from a manufacturer in Singapore without fear of the transaction being rejected by an issuing bank or an intermediary payment processor. Whatever payment methods demanded by an online merchants, Graphcard members are equiped to meet the demand of such merchants. By eliminating age-old credit barriers, Graphcard has opened up a world of new possibilities by facilitating the exchange of goods and services, bolstering local economies and improving the quality of life for many Africans. With the exception of a small group of countries, Graphcard is able to transact online payments between any two parties around the world.

Merchants Gain Access to New Markets

Merchants can also greatly increase their potential customer base by choosing to accept Graphcard payments at their online establishment. For a low, one-time activation fee of just USD $45 – a cost which is well below the expense of joining most other online payment processing networks – a merchant can enroll in the Graphcard network and begin accepting payments on their web site.

A frequent concern for merchants who accept online payments is an expense known as a “chargeback,” in which the merchant must pay for items that have been disputed by a customer. According to MasterCard International Inc., 60% of all e-commerce chargebacks occur in situations where a credit cardholder denies making the purchase. Graphcard’s unique, secure system significantly reduces expensive chargebacks resulting from unauthorized transactions, greatly decreasing risk to the merchant.  Graphcard users and merchants also receive added protection from industry-standard Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology which safeguards all customer information transmitted to Graphcard’s servers. For efficiency, customer service issues are handled primarily through e-mail, though telephone customer service always remains available as a back-up.

In the event that a specific merchant cannot accept an online payment for a transaction, Graphcard offers the ability to issue a certified check or money order on behalf of the buyer. This feature provides the ultimate in flexibility for online shoppers and merchants.

Key benefits for Issuing Banks

  • Convert cash to card spending
  • Reduce customer service costs with online self-care.
  • Successfully extend card usage to small payments and micropayments
  • Incorporate small transactions into emerging payments efforts.


The multivariate obstacles preventing smooth online transactions originating from most African countries may not go away by simply issuing debit cards to users. An integrated and tested solution offering multiple and flexible payment options has proved to be highly successful among users.  Financial Institutions without good understanding of online payment systems will continue to lose market share to an alternative payment systems.


Graphcard is tighly integrated with most payment instruments accepted by merchants for micropayments.

Benefits to issuers:

  • By integrating with local debit cards, a unique opportunity would be created increasing card usage and revenue.
  • Loyalty and rewards programs for small payments aid customer retention.
  • Ability to offer increased convenience to consumers for small transactions.
  • Frequent use for everyday purchases will increase revenue.
  • Online consumer self-care offers excellent service at low-cost.
  • Emerging payments efforts can support everyday spending.

A Company Committed To Success

Graphcard was founded in 2003 as a wholly-owned unit of Laurel, Maryland-based LFR Communications, Inc. The company’s founder, Peter Ojo, is himself an immigrant from Africa, and has in-depth, first-hand knowledge of the problems surrounding online payments in developing countries. Graphcard is one of a few select enterprises to receive assistance from the prestigious Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, located in College Park, Maryland. The University’s Dingman Center carefully screens hundreds of potential business models each year and provides strategic counsel only to those which demonstrate the best fiscal potential.

Since commencing operations, Graphcard has successfully handled thousands of domestic and international transactions, and continues to gain widespread acceptance in new markets. The company’s management team is committed to removing barriers that restrict consumers from participating in the thriving Internet economy, and is optimistic about Graphcard’s potential to become a well-known brand worldwide.

The company has aggressive growth plans for 2006 and beyond. Consumers and merchants can learn more about Graphcard by visiting:

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Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.


  1. I stumbled on your site in my search for credit card solution for nigerians now. I love your blog and article. can I use it on my website?… Can we work together?

    Won’t mind a call from you. my number is 08054228958.

  2. i stumble on your web as i was searching for info about graph card services. Am really in need their service but i want to look well before i jump. Please if you can help me with detailed info on this subject, how it works and stuff i will be grateful. Your sit make sense, i love it. keep it up.

  3. hello,

    graphcard is not scam in any way but thier personal shopper is not that efficient because the order i placed i going to a week and nothing has been done.

  4. I hope that graph cards can be more widely known and more commonly available soon

    Reason: some of my customers have no credit cards so this makes it very difficult for them to pay me.

    If graph card is widely available then it makes it so much more convenient for businesses like mine to collect payments for security deposit for renting of apartments.

    Also graph card will give the people who cannot qualify for credit cards a chance to do online transactions

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