Ecobank/MasterCard Partner To Expand Payments In Africa

MasterCard announced yesterday (June 15) a new partnership with Ecobank to push electronic payments over the next 10 years in 32 sub-Saharan African countries – where, according to Michael Miebach, MasterCard President, Middle East and Africa, 90 percent of transactions are made in cash.

MasterCard follows main competitor Visa, which extended its presence into seven new African countries last March through a partnership with Bharti Airtel, a telecommunications service provider, to bring mobile payments services.

Ecobank, which is currently in 36 African countries, will also rollout innovative MasterCard acceptance solutions and thousands of mobile point of sales devices. The objective is to not only increase the number of merchant locations that accept MasterCard payment cards, but also to go a step further by enabling smartphone payments.

According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, mobile payments in sub-Saharan Africa will generate $1.5 billion in fees for mobile-money providers by 2019. The growth comes from a combination of a largely unbanked population and high mobile phone penetration. That has turned the southern half of the continent into a giant test of mobile money’s potential, and the region has the world’s highest proportion of active financial-services accounts, at 43 percent.

Over 1,300 Ecobank subsidiaries will issue MasterCard branded cards such as debit, prepaid, and credit cards to make electronic payments or withdraw cash from ATMs in their home country or in any of the 210 countries which MasterCard serves. In addition, the MasterCard Payment Gateway Service will be available in a few selected countries to boost online commerce for Ecobank’s SMEs as well as commercial and corporate customers.

Albert Essien, Group CEO of Ecobank, said: “This collaboration with MasterCard will enable us to achieve our vision of contributing to the economic and financial integration and development of the African continent by rolling out convenient, accessible and reliable financial products and services to our customers.

“Specifically, the initiative enables us to extend our MasterCard acquiring capabilities at thousands of merchants across Africa, grow our eCommerce acquiring business, and expand our service offerings to retail and commercial customers in Africa.”

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The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.

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