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Union54 is a financial technology company based in Zambia that provides an innovative card-issuing API that allows their customers to quickly and efficiently create their own virtual and physical cards. The company recently received $3M in funding from venture capital firm Tiger Global.

While this technology offers numerous benefits, there are several challenges associated with the card-issuing API. This guide will provide an overview of these issues, as well as an examination of potential solutions.

Tiger Global leads $3M round in Zambia’s Union54 for its card-issuing API

Union54’s card-issuing API is intended to provide a secure and reliable way to provide access to digital payment services to users in Zambia. Despite the potential this API has to increase financial accessibility, there are several potential challenges associated with it. These challenges include security issues, compatibility issues, and scalability.

Let’s get into the details:

  • Security issues
  • Compatibility issues
  • Scalability


When it comes to card-issuing services and APIs, security is a key concern for any company. Union54’s API must provide measures in place to ensure secure transactions between the issuing bank and the customer.

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To do this, the API should have measures in place to protect customers from fraud and identity theft such as encryption, tokenization, and strong authentication processes. Other security measures that should be taken into consideration include:

  • Updating user passwords regularly
  • Using two-factor authentication for account access
  • Setting up limits on login attempts for added protection
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These measures help protect both customers and businesses from potential fraudsters as well as ensure that all transactions made through Union54’s API are secure.

Data privacy

Data privacy is a major concern for companies when it comes to implementing any third-party tool or service. With Union54’s card-issuing API, data privacy and security are critical. The API must protect user data, such as payment information and personal details, from malicious actors.

As such, the encryption protocols used by Union54 to protect data must be up-to-date with industry standards. Additionally, companies using the API should set up internal processes to ensure that they securely handle user data.

Data storage

One of the major challenges associated with Union54’s card-issuing API is data storage. With the hundreds of customers who can use the API, it is important to securely store and access their data. Union54 has taken multiple measures to ensure secure data storage, including:

  • Encryption of all customer information stored on its servers.
  • Using trusted clouds services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure to host its data.
  • Setting extensive security protocols for its entire system.

Additionally, Union54 implements an automated backup routine that helps protect data in case of server outages or other security breaches. By taking these proactive steps, Union54 can provide reliable card-issuing services while keeping customers’ personal and financial information safe.


Union54’s API allows developers to create, issue, and manage prepaid cards through a single API. To ensure that the API is accessible to users in all parts of the world, Union54 has implemented a few key features to overcome regional challenges.

  • The API can be used for issuing both physical and virtual cards worldwide. Physical cards are delivered internationally with full-stack support for issuing and maintaining the cards, while virtual debit cards provide users with immediate access to funds without the need for a physical card.
  • Additionally, Union54 has an in-house bank partnership program which allows them to work in local currencies and currencies from over 50 countries across Africa.
  • Furthermore, Union54’s platform is secured by its compliance teams located around the world who monitor regulatory changes as well as requirements for new markets to identify any potential issues with card issuing on global bases.
  • The platform also takes care that all AML/KYC checks are performed properly and online privacy is taken seriously so that users have peace of mind when using their prepaid cards.
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This range of features makes it easier for developers to access Union54’s card-issuing API regardless of their country or region, ensuring that they can issue payments with ease across borders.


The developers of Union54’s card-issuing API faced several challenges when developing the system. The first challenge was the availability of the service. The developers had to ensure that the system was able to reliably handle a large number of requests without any disruption due to server maintenance or other technical issues. To ensure reliability, they implemented a distributed architecture which allowed for callback URLs and transaction status tracking, as well as a simple yet secure web interface for clients. In addition, they implemented intelligent load balancing algorithms to ensure optimal performance.

Another challenge faced in developing the card-issuing API was ensuring the security of data sent over the network. To address this, they incorporated industry leading security protocols like SSL and TLS which encrypt confidential information before transit and encryption at rest within databases. They also implemented two factor authentication via SMS or voice call to prevent fraudulent activity and identity theft. Finally, multi-factor authentication and IP whitelisting were also used to restrict access only to authorized users or IPs for added protection from malicious activity.


Scalability is a fundamental challenge for payment providers when utilizing an API-based card issuing solution like Union54. The ability to acquire new customers quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively is paramount, which requires an API architecture designed to handle rapid growth in an agile fashion. This can present a challenge to payment providers when selecting the right API solution.

Union54 Card issuing APIs must also be flexible while allowing for scalability. Union54 has developed its platform with performance and scalability considerations in mind. It provides optimized APIs that are highly secure and scalable across operations with international expansion capabilities, enabling payment providers to flexibly scale up or down with confidence. The platform also offers tools that enable real-time fraud detection as well as dynamic reporting, both key components of a successful card-issuing program.

Network latency

Network latency can be a major obstacle when operating Union54’s card-issuing API, as it affects the ability of the API to perform credit card transactions promptly. Network latency is defined as the delay, measured in milliseconds or seconds, between when a request is made and when a response is received. Low network latency is necessary for an efficient application process, allowing users of Union54’s card-issuing API to complete their transactions quickly and securely.

However, network latency is not limited to just Union54’s card-issuing API; it can also present challenges for other related services (e.g., fraud prevention tools and payment processor connections). If these services are too slow in responding or provide poor performance, then this can lead to delays in processing payments and potential financial losses for businesses conducted through Union54’s card-issuing API. As such, it is important for companies making use of this service to ensure that network latency does not pose a problem by:

  • Regularly testing their systems with reliable platform providers;
  • Appropriately configuring their systems if self-hosting.


Integration is one of the key challenges associated with Union54’s card-issuing API, which is responsible for providing merchants access to electronic payment capabilities and management tools. Specifically, integration into existing systems can be complex and time-consuming. It involves collaboration with IT teams on both the merchant and Union54’s side to ensure a successful implementation.

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Additionally, it often entails crafting individual solutions that are tailored to each to provide a seamless experience for customers. Furthermore, adequate testing must be carried out regularly to ensure that all changes are implemented properly. This includes testing integration points, security protocols, and other associated components that could potentially impede performance or lead to disruption of services.


Compatibility is the first challenge Union54 should consider when developing its card-issuing API. By catering to its clients’ requirements, Union54 should ensure that its API is compatible with the various environments and mobile wallets of the businesses that it serves. It should also be able to sync with other digital payment gateways, such as MasterCard and Visa, which use different technologies. This will help reduce any inconsistency and make it easier for businesses to keep track of their customers’ payments and transactions.

Additionally, Union54 should focus on ensuring that its API is secure so that customer information remains protected from any potential security risks.


Union54’s card-issuing API is built using a technology platform that allows businesses to accept payments from individuals anywhere in the world. With its focus on developing markets, Union54 must contend with several distinct challenges related to connectivity.

Connectivity issues in certain markets can significantly limit access to Union54’s card-issuing API due to poor internet infrastructure. This could translate into slower processing times and delays when issuing cards and greater difficulty enabling customers to access their funds and make payments.

To combat these issues, Union54 has designed its product offering so that it works well in even tight network conditions. They have also asserted that the product can scale quickly with any additional demand for service, since customers can relaunch their cards and processes within minutes, thereby altering connectivity requirements dynamically.

Data mapping

Data mapping is one of the primary challenges that Union54’s card-issuing API faces. Data mapping is the process or technique of creating a relationship between two or more sets of data. Each set may be stored in different formats, and they may not be compatible with each other at first. Using data mapping, however, enables all the datasets to come together in one place and interact in an organized manner.

In particular, because Union54 works with financial institutions located across four African countries and all their respective currencies, ensuring proper data mapping for each bank and currency pair is critical for Union54’s API to remain stable and efficient. Incorrect mapping can cause discrepancies between expected behavior from each bank’s system and there can also be delays due to latency issues.

To prevent these issues from occurring, Union54 has implemented advanced solutions to ensure proper data mapping when connecting with multiple banks to ensure smooth operations for its customers.