What are APIs?

APIs are similar to bridges. They serve as intermediaries between two or more applications. This plain English guide explains them in detail.

What are APIs?

APIs are Application Programming Interfaces. Great, but what does that even mean? And how have they been able to power billions of actions across the world? In this explainer, I'll break things down in simple terms. So, whenever any curious human gets a wind of APIs and asks you what they mean, you'll be good to explain.

The Basics: How do APIs work?

An API is simply an intermediary between two or more applications. Think of it as a bridge that allows for the exchange of information; to handle certain requests. Let's bring this home with a restaurant example.

Imagine you take your friends to a restaurant with 10 chefs. Out of curiosity, you want to try something from each. Take your imagination a bit further to assume there is no waiter, and each chef has their own menu. That means you'd have to walk from one chef's stand to another before you complete your order.

Honestly, that would be a poor dining experience. However, with a waiter at hand and one menu, you and your friends can efficiently try a dish from each chef through them. In this case:

  • The waiter is our API.
  • You are the application making requests from other apps (the chefs).
  • Your friends are your customers in this case.

Another way to define this is that:

APIs help customers of one application access the services of another, without leaving the first application. Your friends didn't need to stand up to get the meal, right? Good.

APIs in everyday life

Several times, we access services built on APIs without even realizing it. Let's explore some examples.

  1. Log in/Signup with X
    Do you remember seeing options to log in or signup for certain platforms by simply entering your email or social media details? That's an API at work there. Your data is securely provided as feedback to help you get in faster than usual.
  2. Weather Data
    When you look up the weather on Google, you actually see information from another platform. Google obtains the data from another platform using its API. However, you do not need to leave the search page to access this data.
  3. Linking your Bank
    There are various reasons you may need to connect your bank to an application. It could be for a loan, a recurring payment for a subscription, and so on. Leveraging Okra's APIs, various African companies allow you to link your bank without leaving their platforms.

In summary, APIs make it super easy to optimise certain processes. For example, you no longer need to download and reupload bulky bank statements to apply for loans anymore. Platforms like Aella simply leverage our APIs to securely access your financial history within seconds.

How do APIs work at Okra?

Today, there's a lot of financial data sitting in silos, and because this data is disconnected, it's difficult to use it to serve everyday people.

Additionally, the lock-up of these data points can negatively impact certain businesses. For example, at the point of this, there's no registry on insurance claims. So, one person can make multiple claims from different insurance firms for the same issue.  We at Okra are definitely looking into this.

So far, Okra APIs serve as the waiters for financial data. With a robust menu, businesses get to make various requests that we handle in seconds. On our menu, we offer:

  1. Seamless connection to customer financial data.
  2. The ability for businesses to identify true owners of connected data.
  3. Transaction histories for lengthy periods.
  4. Income patterns of customers.
  5. Direct payments from banks.

Based on this, various companies have built services that were deemed impossible.

Get started with Okra

Here's the good part, you don't need technical skills to get started with Okra. Using a simple app builder, you can create exactly what you need and embed it on your site/app within 5 minutes. Follow these steps:

  1. Sign up here.
  2. Verify your email.
  3. Start building.