Mike Ogbalu III is an engineer who has spent the last two decades working on digital infrastructure for payments, including as CEO of Nigerian card payment company Verve, making him perhaps one of the continent’s leading payments experts. But in his role as CEO of the Pan African Payment Settlement System (PAPSS), Ogbalu is perhaps undertaking his most challenging digital plumbing task to date. PAPSS was set up by the African Union in January 2022 to provide backbone infrastructure for the African Continental Free Trade Area, a 54-country trading bloc established in 2018. Trade between African countries has often been complicated by the difficulty of settling bills and making payments across borders. If Ogbalu and PAPSS can successfully overcome this perennial challenge, they could transform how commerce works in Africa.