9Mobile API and the Nigerian Tech Ecosystem

The Nigerian Tech Ecosystem over the past couple of years has experienced a boom. The  recent announcement  by 9Mobile that the service provider will release its API for  developers has been well received by the industry.

An API is simply a way for programmers to access data and functionality of an application. This enables software developers to extend the functionalities of an existing application. For example, Regrann is an app that reposts  Instagram pictures on your feed. This is not possible on the Instagram app but thanks to the Instagram API, Regrann is able to add this functionality.

The release of an SMS and USSD API by 9Mobile would allow developers easily access tools that enable them to build creative applications and functionality on the network’s data. Currently, developers go through a stressful and expensive experience when working with USSD technology.

“We at 9mobile are delighted to partner with Africa’s Talking in the bid to support Nigerian software developers and SMEs as they build viable and scalable businesses. This partnership will provide quality and affordable mobile communication tools like two-way SMS and USSD APIs that they can embed into their day to day business activities to improve their marketing capabilities and interact easily with their customers.” – Adia Sowho, Director, Digital Business, 9mobile.

CTO of Planet NEST , Banjo Mofesola Paul explains that its a great development, provided 9Mobile succeeds at it.

“Working with USSD is hard as a nut and it costs a fortune to set up. If done well, it should make that stuff as easy as integrating any normal API” – Banjo Mofesola Paul

The announcement  follows a partnership between the telecoms giant and Africa’s Talking, a Pan-African company focused on providing developers with an easy and reliable way to access telecommunication infrastructure. 9Mobile will provide access to telecom apps while Africa Talking will provide a sandbox environment for developers to use while learning how to work with the APIs as well as testing their applications before moving into production.

For Nigerian developers, the possibilities and creativity in this move is endless, hence we can expect really great applications to be built on  this API.

“Developers can now implement stuff like SMS verification and multi-factor authentication using sms, which usually is an issue because of how expensive sms providers can be as users grow.”
– Lawrence Agbani, Software Engineer, Konga NG.

Other possibilities include:

SMS authentication for apps: If you’re like me and  you have a hate relationship with passwords, this API is bae, as it will be possible to sign in to apps with simple pins sent to your phone numbers.

Custom USSD endpoints for small businesses: Imagine dialing *453# to order food from Chicken Republic.

Currently, it’s really expensive for developers to create custom endpoints for small business, only huge companies like banks have been able to harness this functionality to improve customer experience in Nigeria, hereby discouraging SMEs from accessing it. Therefore, the move empowers SMEs to use local developers to build solutions for them that would empower the user; creating value all around for the users, developers and business owners.

In his views about the development , Kitan David, C.E.O, Planet NEST, highlighted the benefit of this API to rural dwellers as they would have easy access to services offered through this platform.

“As a technology business Developer,I think it’s a good step in the right direction and it will unleash some awesome product and innovation from African developers. I also think it will bridge the access gap in connectivity with rural dwellers” – Kitan David

It’s a bold step taken by 9Mobile in their bid to become a leading telecoms provider in Nigeria. I hope other Telecoms follow suite in the nearest future and I look forward to the applications and services businesses and developers create, what do you think?