Mastercard taps telcos to grow share in Nigeria’s cashless economy

The rising adoption of electronic payment channels in Nigeria has Mastercard making new partnerships with telecommunication operators to cement a large pie of the cashless market.

Although mobile subscriptions have recently dropped from 204 million in December to 199 million in January 2021, telecommunication operators still control the mobile economy.

The mobile economy is at the heart of the digital economy which the Nigerian government has been pushing. The digital economy is expected to create employment opportunities for Nigeria’s teeming population and lift of millions out of poverty.

In many ways, that ambition aligns with Mastercard’s mission of connecting 1 billion people to the digital economy by 2025, including 40 million micro and small businesses, with a direct focus on 25 million women entrepreneurs.

Africa accounts for nearly 40 percent of the world’s population not connected to the internet. With millions under the low-income bracket, access to mobile devices and the Internet remains out of outreach.

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Mastercard believes that connecting millions means making it easier to accept electronic payments, along with greater access to credit to grow and scale.

To achieve the global payment technology company has announced a partnership with MTN and Airtel in recent time. The MTN partnership enables millions of consumers in 16 countries across Africa to make global e-commerce payments safely and securely, with or without a bank account.

“Last year, we launched a Pay-on-Demand mobile platform in Uganda with Samsung, Airtel, and Asante Financial Services Group which provides end consumers and MSMEs with asset financing to access smart handsets at a low upfront cost while making affordable payments over time,” said Azuka Mordi, Market Product Management, Digital Payments and Labs (West Africa) Mastercard.

The partnership with Airtel will enable access for over 100 million mobile phone users in 14 countries to virtual card numbers (VCN) and QR Payment capability – even though they don’t have a bank account. Mastercard also aims to onboard over 40,000 SMEs as merchants on QR. the company claims the partnership has made Airtel one of the largest offline-to-online digital payment networks in Africa.

Citing the World Bank’s Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report, Mastercard agrees the country is uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of the digital economy. Nigeria has 47 percent of West Africa’s population and half of the country’s 200 million people are under the age of 30.

“Mastercard solutions assist businesses and consumers to thrive in the digital economy by utilizing safe and secure digital payment channels. But governments are benefiting too, Mastercard applies its technology to assist countries and stakeholders to digitize economies and develop successful, interoperable payment ecosystems that can support sustainable growth and wider financial inclusion. Our research has found that cash prevalence can have a high economic cost – estimated at 3.2% to 4.5% of global GDP. Mastercard’s Payments Ecosystem Design & Development (PEDD) methodology offers cash-cutting solutions and helps governments develop a blueprint of their digital economy to mitigate the costs of cash and build domestic payment ecosystems,” Mordi said.

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