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Designing SwapAirtime: A Proof of Concept

A proof of concept of an idea about a platform that instantly converts your airtime into cash.


A lot of people usually make the mistake of buying a large amount of airtime instead of transferring which results in them finding vendors that they can sell the airtime to.


A platform for smartphone users to instantly convert their airtime into cash and withdraw into their various bank accounts respectively.

Looking at existing platforms, I noticed some features that need improvement and how they can serve their users better.

The Proposed Features

1. Remove login/signup bearer: I noticed that most of this platform requires users to sign up/login.

2. Automate Airtime transfer: I saw that users will have to transfer the airtime to a particular number and send a request that they have done the airtime transfer. So why not just integrate with a USSD SDK like Hover to make the airtime transfer be part of the process and avoid a situation where users won’t make the transfer but make a request for payments.

3. Instant Payment: A way better way to make the payment get into the user’s bank account as soon as the airtime transfer is successful.

The process of converting airtime into cash is just like recycling airtime through virtual top-ups.

What do I mean by recycling airtime?

I come to exchange my airtime to cash, you give me the cash and I give you airtime. Where does that airtime go? It goes to the vendor and they will resell it via virtual top-ups.

A vendor/telcos are not interested in collecting the airtime back because they want to sell the airtime, which means there can be another feature to add to the platform that will allow the vendor to sell the airtime exchanged for cash to another customer.

Simply put, the platform will have two options that users can choose what service they want;

1. To convert airtime to cash.

2. To purchase airtime.

I had a conversation with Mr. Matthew of BlueSpectra, he stated that “In 2016–2018, him and some people planned to make this idea a master plan for the federal government like an agent banking where they would have people to sell airtime in which they would have a dedicated USSD to sell to”.

He also added “why would he use another USSD to get airtime, when banks do the same and telcos, gives people the ability to buy airtime directly too without stress” That the only cash at that time was to sell cheaper and profit was at jeopardy.

I told him that this idea seems to be a bit hard that I noticed the conversion rate happens to be like; if you have 500 Naira airtime, you will be able to receive 350 Naira whereby keeping 30% profit and the percentage might varies depending on the network provider.

He replied that “the pricing wasn’t like that before, that it’s now profitable to do it this way and it’s now a game of numbers to be able to do it at scale because many people are already doing it.

This is where I came up with the thoughts that good design and content strategy might bring in more users.

Based on good design, more focus will be on attractions, accessibility, and usability. So, one needs to understand the pain points of users the make that a unique selling point.

One of the pain points of users that I noticed is the signup process which is part of the features I mentioned earlier. We all know that signing up users is all about KYC, issue tracking, and data gathering but what if the data are being stored and verification are done during the process of transactions and users don’t need to sign up. A good design process can make this happen.

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How could this be done?

I split the process into four (4) operations. The operations are;

1. Selection of Operation: The user will be able to choose the operation they are interested in, whether they want to convert their airtime into cash or they want to purchase airtime.

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Select Operation.

2. Inputting of Airtime details: Users will be able to input their phone number, select their network provider whether they use MTN, Glo, Airtel, or 9 Mobile, the amount of airtime they want to convert and it will show the amount or percentage they will receive.

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Input Airtime Details.

3. Transfer of Airtime: Users will be able to transfer the airtime directly from their phone number to the vendor portal on the platform.

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Transfer Airtime

4. Withdrawal of Funds: As soon as the transfer has been successful, users will be able to withdraw their funds into their bank account by inputting their bank details (bank name, account number, and account name).

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Withdraw Funds.

All this process will take place step-by-step in a queue in the sense that, a step has to complete before they move to the other step. During this process, users will see a loading screen that will also display process logs to know what is happening in the background.

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Transaction in progress.
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Transaction Successful.

How can the airtime exchanged for cash can be resold?

The airtime exchanged can be sold in the form of virtual top-ups to other users who are interested in only buying airtime.

N.B: You also need to have cash float to pay those that exchange their airtime before you resell that particular airtime.

You can view the prototype here.

Thanks for reading!

Hi, I’m Soliudeen. You can check out my portfolio and also follow me on Twitter.

Written by

Product Designer — Building Passionate about making tools accessible for Creative Minds 👉

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