Mastercard: Making the shift to digital payments

By Daniel Monehin

Accessibility to practical financial solutions is key to shifting Africa’s dependency on cash, and with the continued adoption of mobile devices on the continent, we envisage this technology becoming an even more important tool that will connect people to the formal financial sector.

According to recent research, delivering financial services by mobile phone could add an approximate $3.7 trillion to these economies in the next decade. Mobile payments are expected to continue growing steadily. In a recent report by GMSA both South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa were highlighted as they accounted for 85 percent of all new mobile money accounts opened in 2015.

With this in mind, mobile has long been a focus of ours, with the introduction of Masterpass in markets such as South Africa being recognised as a bold move forward in the digital payments space. Our latest enhancement, Masterpass QR is seen as the next evolution in mobile payment technology. In a landmark deal with the Ecobank Group, Masterpass QR will be rolled out to 33 markets in a move to connect with 100 million customers by 2020. Nigeria will be the first to go live with the solution.

With mobile phone penetration expected to continue growing, investment in mobile payment solutions will mirror this trend as they have the potential to lower the cost of providing financial services by as much as 90 percent. When you consider the opportunities this presents in empowering the under and unbanked, it is clear that deeper investment needs to be made in the digital finance sector.

Digital finance, without a doubt, remains an important topic – one that will be highlighted during my panel discussion at this year’s Money20/20 in Las Vegas, the world’s foremost payments and financial services innovation event. The focus of the panel is on what emerging markets can teach the United States about financial inclusion initiatives. The most important lesson in developing pioneering solutions lies in maximising the use of mobile devices - the majority of people’s constant companion.

The Masterpass QR solution not only addresses challenges with the acceptance of electronic payments in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), it guarantees consumers a secure and seamless way of paying for online and in-store purchases by scanning a Quick Response (QR) code displayed at checkout on their smartphones, or by entering a merchant identifier into their feature phones.

And historically, these smaller merchants have struggled with the cost of installing payment infrastructure such as point-of-sale devices, as well as with issues of security surrounding payment. Masterpass QR helps them to overcome these challenges in a simple and user-friendly manner.

We understand that digital finance is crucial for the growth of economies in Africa, which is why we continue to forge meaningful partnerships that help to deliver smart digital solutions. Africa is at the forefront of innovation, with more people seeing the benefits of technology in their daily lives, therefore the introduction of Masterpass QR will help people transition to a more secure and convenient way of paying.

According to an African proverb, “If the rhythm of the drum beat changes, the dance steps must adapt.” A digital rhythm is pervading Africa and Masterpass is our adaptive dance steps.

Daniel Monehin is the Division President for Mastercard, sub-Saharan Africa.

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