Visa, Airtel Extend Mobile Payments To Africa

Visa is extending its presence into the African mobile money market through a new partnership with Bharti Airtel to bring mobile payments services to seven additional countries.

The partnership will allow Airtel — a telecommunications service provider that’s active in 20 countries across Asia and Africa — and Visa to bring an innovative payment method to consumers in Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles and Tanzania who might otherwise not have adequate banking access. Mobile commerce investments in Africa, in particular, have been increasingly attractive to payments and commerce companies due to the fact that much of the population has mobile phones but not easy access to banks.

“Mobile payments can transform the lives of people throughout Africa who commonly have access to a mobile phone, but not a bank,” Vish Sowani, vice president of MNO Partnerships for Visa, said in a company news release. “For most new subscribers, this will represent their first payment account and bring some of the latest digital payment advancements into the everyday experiences of Airtel’s customers.”

Visa will be able to use Airtel’s already existing mobile money service (Airtel Money) to pay a merchant at a physical store or online at any site that accepts Visa. Airtel Money also enables customers to withdraw money and make payments at a store using a Airtel Money Visa card. According to Airtel, its mobile money service is also used to make micro-payments, conduct fund transfers, purchase airtime and prepaid electricity, and Internet bundles — all without having to step foot into a bank or store.

“We are excited to embark on the next phase of development for Airtel Money with our new partner Visa,” Chidi Okpala, director and head of Airtel Money Africa, said in the news release. “We can look forward to further empowering our Airtel Money customers with access to retail, ATM and online payments using only their Airtel Mobile Phone and companion card to manage all their mobile payment needs.”