Dubai’s Astra Tech Forms Partnership With Mastercard

Dubai-based FinTech Astra Tech says a new partnership with Mastercard has expanded its payment ecosystem.

The company announced Monday (March 13) that its PayBy service had become one of the first companies of its kind in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region to receive a Mastercard principal membership license. 

“Through the partnership with Mastercard , Astra will issue branded Mastercard digital and physical cards to millions of users on top of its platforms BOTIM and Payby, providing authorization services and prepaid multi-currency cards,” the company said in a news release.

The partnership also lets Astra offer BIN (bank identification sponsorship) services, allowing other third-party FinTechs to issue prepaid cards and connect with the Mastercard network,

“Financial services are one of the most important and underdeveloped sectors in this part of the world,” Abdallah Abu Sheikh, Astra Tech’s co-founder and CEO, said in the release.

“To take on this challenge, we chose to partner with a trusted and world-renowned company like Mastercard to ensure we provide the best service our users deserve.”

Astra Tech acquired BOTIM earlier this year in a bid to launch a Gulf region super app, becoming one of MENA’s largest tech communication platforms in the process.

As PYMNTS noted at the time, BOTIM has thrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — where 85% of the population comes from overseas — due to the country’s ban on calls from applications like FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp. That makes BOTIM one of the few apps people in the UAE can use to make home internet voice calls. 

The company’s Mastercard partnership allows it to tap into a unique phenomenon in the MENA region: though millions there have limited access to conventional bank accounts and reliable financial infrastructure, a mix of high smartphone penetration and a young, tech-savvy populace has bridged the gap to mobile or digital purchases.

PYMNTS research has found that consumers in the UAE are particularly prone to using their smartphones to improve their online and in-store shopping experience.

In the five other countries that were studied — Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States — consumers in the UAE were most likely to use their smartphones during their shopping journey and to have carried out their most recent purchase entirely through their smartphones.

That’s according to “The 2022 Global Digital Shopping Index: UAE Edition,” a PYMNTS and Cybersource collaboration.

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