The whole world went into hibernation in early 2020 as the coronavirus spread across borders, leaving in its wake a terrifying death toll, mass panic, and economic uncertainty. Daily routines that had once defined our lives were put on hold for the foreseeable future—we could no longer go to schools, markets, offices, or places of worship.
It was amidst this new reality that Lagos-based serial entrepreneur Ibrahim Maigaru Ahmadu and his team launched Paysabil, a platform that allows you to make virtual donations to faith-based charities, mosques, and other religious institutions of your choice.
Although Ahmadu began working on the application a year before the pandemic as a way to “use technology to improve the giving and receiving of voluntary religious donations”, as he noted in a press statement released via his Medium Page, the coincidence of the app’s arrival only served to underscore its importance in a world craving digitization.
Since its 27 April 2020 launch, the app has been downloaded over 1,000 times on Google Play Store. With over 200 organizations—each verified by a Nigerian bank—registered to receive donations through the platform, Paysabil is facilitating smooth and transparent transactions and gradually working towards supplanting what it calls the “grossly abused donation collection system in many worship places.”
A practicing Muslim, Ahmadu was inspired to create Paysabil after witnessing the shortcomings of the traditional modes of religious giving in mosques. “You have to be physically present because you cannot donate from afar as most of us are busy and highly mobile these days,” he says in a video uploaded to the company’s YouTube channel. “I could be in Lagos and want to send my donation to my favorite mosque in Maiduguri. Paysabil is a platform for people who are highly mobile to facilitate that effortlessly.”
Ahmadu notes that even in situations where physical distance is no barrier, the traditional system still cannot keep up with new realities. “You find a worshipper in the mosque listening to a sermon, moved, and wanting to give but unfortunately he has no cash in his pocket. That is a hindrance. Some of us also suspect the cash-based system of not being straightforward.”
According to Ahmadu, the platform also aims to combat an aspect of gender discrimination in religious spaces. “The current system is highly disenfranchising to our female folks,” he explains in the video. “In some parts of the country, they do not have access to Friday prayers or mosques. If they want to make voluntary donations, they do not have the opportunity to do that. Paysabil gives that woman at home a chance to make her donation to her favorite mosque from the comfort of her living room.”
Even as he admits the challenging prospects of faith-based platforms in the currently saturated fintech market, Ahmadu has great ambitions for Paysabil’s future: “We are ensuring we have a business model that creates sustainability,” he says in the promotional video. “Our vision is to make sure that this platform outlives all of us.”
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is a journalist, social critic and literary enthusiast. He is the recepient of the 2017 Fisayo Soyombo National Essay Prize, the 2020 Speculative Literary Foundation’s Diverse Writers Grant and the 2020 K&L Prize for African Literature. He is the founder of SprinNG, a platform dedicated to the development of young African writers.