Atlas Mara partners Visa, Mastercard

HARARE - London Stock Exchange-listed financial services group, Atlas Mara, has entered into a partnership with international payment platform networks, Mastercard and Visa in a move expected to provide financial access to Sub-Saharan Africa customers.

Atlas Mara — which owns BancABC Zimbabwe — yesterday signed three strategic business agreements with Mastercard, which aim to build a stronger digital payment ecosystem with a focus on accelerating financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa.

While the bank’s local customers may not enjoy the full benefits of the partnership, given the country no longer facilitates for local Mastercard transactions, Atlas Mara chief digital officer Chidi Okpala said the development was going to position the financial group for future growth.

“These Mastercard assets will position Atlas Mara to lead on-going industry efforts to create cash-lite payments ecosystems, entrench financial independence, promote intra-Africa trade and remittances thus fast tracking attainment of scale as an Africa-focused bank,” Okpala said.

In light of acute cash shortages and depleting nostro balances, Zimbabwe recently halted local transactions being transacted on the international payment platform, saying these transactions were a drain on the nostro account position.

But the strategic alliance will pave the way for up to 20 million consumers and 100 000 merchants across Africa to be digitally and financially included in the formal financial sector by 2020.

“The digital payment solutions developed by the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion in collaboration with Atlas Mara will help create a highly efficient society and facilitate true inclusive growth in Africa while reducing transaction costs across the continent,” the Atlas Mara digital officer said.

By leveraging the Mastercard worldwide network and other processing assets — including the host of Mastercard secure digital payment platforms, such as HomeSend, Masterpass QR and Mastercard Payment Gateway Services — the partnership will enable Atlas Mara’s operating banks in Africa to build stronger payment ecosystems and expand access to fast and secure remittance.

Mastercard division president for sub-Saharan Africa, Daniel Monehin, said the partnership was also going to help the continent with economic growth.

“Sub-Saharan Africa requires innovative solutions and strong collaborations across sectors to help drive economic growth.

“Mobile subscriptions in the region are steadily increasing and it is clear that mobile-based solutions are relevant to the needs of people on the continent, and will help to develop an Africa that is less dependent on cash,” Monehin said.

Monehin said Africa’s remittance market had opened up a number of opportunities for driving financial inclusion due to the lack of legacy issues.

According to research by the World Bank, the Sub-Saharan Africa region had an inward remittance flow of over $34 billion, with outward remittance flows of approximately $4 billion in 2016 alone.

Masterpass QR, the Mastercard mobile-driven, Person-to-Merchant (P2M) payment solution, will also be rolled-out as part of the partnership, facilitating access to an affordable alternative to traditional point-of-sale (POS) terminals for merchants to accept electronic payments from their customers, benefiting the entire economy.

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