Last week, we got cryptic invitations to a launch event that simply said First Bank of Nigeria is celebrating PayPal’s launch.

PayPal extended its services to 10 more countries in June, including Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

In the past few days however, First Bank has been drumming up quite the buzz storm about an exclusive partnership with PayPal via social media.

Our first inclination was to roll our eyes and chalk it up to over-enthusiastic marketing gimmickry — First Bank is not the only bank in Nigeria that can be linked to a PayPal account. But the sheer amount of noise FBN is making about it on social media and other surrounding developments are leading us to wonder if First Bank and PayPal are really going to unveil a game-changing partnership.

We indicated that we would be attending the vaunted launch event, mostly out of curiousity.

Our hunch specifically, and it’s a strong one, is that First Bank and PayPal are announcing an exclusive an exclusive partnership with PayPal to enable peer to peer money transfers and a payment gateway for online merchants in Nigeria.

It’s not that far-fetched. The first instance of such a partnership occurred in South Africa, via an exclusive partnership with First National Bank. On the 25th of March, PayPal announced

that online merchants in South Africa would be able to sell to PayPal’s global customer base and withdraw their proceeds to their FNB accounts. Since then, FNB has extended the same service to non-FNB account holders.

In July 2013, Kenya became the second African country to get PayPal’s P2P and merchant payment gateway features. Equity Bank was the local vehicle this time with FNB still acting as middleman between the Kenyan bank and the global payments giant.

All of this is popular knowledge. But is not really out there yet is that PayPal has actually enabled P2P and payment gateway/business features in at eight other countries in Africa, for a total of ten. This we discovered by taking a look at the countries section of the PayPal website to see which regional site offered the options.


We checked, one by one. The supported countries are Kenya, South Africa, Algeria, Lesotho, Malawi, Morocco, Botswana, Mozambique, Reunion and Seychelles. We’re still trying to confirm if/how and to what extent exactly these features have been deployed in these countries.

Could Nigeria be next? The absence of P2P transfers and the ability for local merchants to accept payments are arguably the biggest dampener of Nigerian PayPal euphoria, and scoring such a deal would be a HUGE coup for First Bank, to the chagrin of the others, of course. Immense ripple effects would occur on a tectonic scale across the local payments space. Things could get interesting very quickly. If we’re right.

It’s a long shot, this hunch, but anything less would be utterly disappointing and unworthy of the hype for which we can’t help noticing that Twitter trendstarters have been contracted. We are on our way to the #FirstBankPayPal event to observe.

Muyiwa Matuluko Author

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