By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new philosophy of work and new way of doing business, but one of the outcomes being expected is the advent of Contactless payment solution where contact is totally avoided.

 Payment solution and work place ethics are part of the revolution wrought by the pandemic, and Nigeria like most countries of the world is not immune from changes the world is undergoing. The fight over the future of the work place is going to be one that will dominate cultural space globally going forward.

“For decades, many people all over the world have associate office with routine and conformity,   but the office is fast becoming a source of economic uncertainty. The COVID-19 calamity is prompting a long-overdue phase of technological and social experimentation in the workplace.

 For example, some 84% of French office-workers are back at their desks, even after the resurgence of COVID-19, but fewer than 40% of British ones are. While in Nigeria, formal economy is yet to resume work due to the people pandemic”, Dr. Abraham Idowu, a psychologist at Kogi State University told BusinessHallmark.

There is need for companies to adapt to fit a sporadic attendance pattern and governments are expected to modernise employment law in line with new normal and reality imposed by the pandemic.

About 20 years ago, Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist and Nobel Prize laureate, argued that a time may arise when Contactless commerce may be the new normal. His idea may have come to fulfillment according to Idowu.

“Global pandemic has changed consumer buying behaviours. There is a major shift in preferred modes of payments, and this is re-modifying the business landscape”, Dr. Olufemi Omoyele said. This shift stems from “the hygiene concerns about cash” and has seen a corresponding rise in e-commerce transactions and even a growing dependence on internet connectivity for both work and lifestyle needs.

Omoyele noted that nothing explained this development more than the fact that some of the companies posting profits in this pandemic are telecommunication companies, e-commerce platforms or alternate payment solutions providers.

Recently, Olatunbo Asiru who spoke about this during the American Business Council Economic Update in partnership with MasterCard, stated that the new innovations in payment patterns also spring from a growing awareness that limiting contacts with cash will not be sufficient if payment cards still have to be handled by different parties before payment is made.

In an effort to limit contact, “businesses must adapt their strategic plans in order to add value to evolving consumer needs,” Asiru noted in his presentation during the virtual conference.

Contactless payments

There is growing belief by many that if contact with cash is not seen to be safe, then contact with payment cards and other technologies may also not be safe, Dr. Omoyele said this much. According to him, “there is basically no difference between cash and payment card, both pose similar risk in this period of pandemic.”

The use of POS machines and ATMs in Nigeria currently requires an individual to provide the card for the cashier to swipe, or inserting one’s card into the machine to retrieve cash. After this, the buyer still replaces the card in his wallet.

Contactless payment solution seeks a dispensation where contact is totally avoided. This means a secure payment method using a debit or credit card, smartcard, or another payment device by using RFID technology or near-field communication, so that the customer can effect payment without the card having any direct contact with the machine with his hand or card.

“As far as I am concerned, the best solution is secure payment method where contact is totally avoided.

Omoyele noted that this could also take the form of scanning barcodes to effect payment without any contact. There is no doubt that consumers want to stay safe and this can be seen in the increased usage of e-commerce platforms for convenience and safety.

The goal of every business is to stay safe, to protect staff and customers by way of physical distancing and contactless payments.

“This will soon become the way to go, the future new normal going forward”, Omoyele submitted.

Fear of frauds

A major and compounding obstacle to the “cashless society” that is being vigorously desired, and which Nigerian Central Bank has expressed apprehension is the fear of digital frauds.

Not a few people have lost some money after entering their payment card details into the wrong sites, and this consciousness continues to keep them in the cash era.

Fielding questions on this, Asiru stated that despite the fears, frauds resulting from contactless payments are much lower than is seen in other forms of payments.

He however added that web developers will have to do more to prevent fraud and drive security on their platforms, especially as traffic is expected to push upwards.

How ready is Nigeria?

 One thing that stands out is that contactless solutions will depend largely on assured security of the space and reliable internet connectivity.

On this note, Asiru posited that Nigeria may not be able to take the lead, saying East and North Africa may lead the revolution in contactless payments, while other countries will follow closely behind.

“Contactless technology has proven to be an asset in a world where consumers must limit contact with cash” and consumers are already itching for this solution.

For instance, POS transaction volume and value have reached a 4 year high with N416 billion worth of transactions in July, while Mobile Transactions value also reached a 4-year high at N275billion of transactions. There has also been an increased use of Digital & Mobile platforms, as can be seen in the GDP report where the Telecoms sector posted an impressive growth.

“Our partners in Nigeria are already issuing contactless enabled cards and we are working with our stakeholders to ensure an increase in transaction limits and a deeper penetration of contactless for health and convenience of cardholders and merchants,” Asiru stated