Technology gives birth to new set of business models

Businessman working on his laptop in office.
Businessman working on his laptop in office. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

The evolution of the internet has seen digital services morph in form, function and complexity. As more users get connected and exposed to digital lifestyles, businesses have realised that it is no longer sufficient to transact in operational silos.

How businesses are able to open up and allow third parties to add or extract value is through the almighty API, short for application programing interface. API’s empower businesses with the ability to expose parts of their internal systems to developer partners who are then able to build hooks into other systems or create entirely new service lines. It is much easier and scalable for a thousand partners to build one service each than it is for one company to build a thousand services, thus opening new revenue streams or customer access channels for the business. That benefit aside, it is important to know what business model to run with as this can make or break the return on investment in this digital transformation.

The subscription model gives fire-hose access to a host of API’s based on a fixed monthly or annual fee. This means that once a partner moves out of the sandbox they give a predictable minimum recurring revenue to the business. In the gaming industry subscriptions are popular for a broad range of services from odds to live data.

On-demand, such as the one adopted by Equity Bank’s fintech subsidiary Finserve sees a charge levied for every call made. In the case of their Jenga API the cost is tiered based on calls made with 0 – 100,000 being free and anything above that billed at a flat Sh1. Most of those who adopt this model will levy a charge only on successful transactions with those that return ‘nothing’ being free.

Another example is in identity lookup as consumed by many digital lenders from credit reference bureaus who interact with the Integrated Population Registration System.


Transaction models are common where the business has an immediate and direct benefit embedded. This sees the API offered for free, with fair use policies often in place. Safaricom’s Daraja API and others offered by payment or messaging gateways earn either through transaction value commissions or margin on direct sales facilitated.

Models can be mashed up to create unique propositions that include additions such as freemium where fees are charged for extra features, data enrichment or revenue sharing. API’s are powering the world’s digital future.