Drive to Expand Financial Inclusion Continues in Africa, India

Payments technology companies are continuing the drive to expand financial services into underserved populations. By enabling micro and small businesses to accept non-cash payments, they say, they are improving operational efficiencies for these businesses and avoiding the need for proprietors to carry large sums of cash.

On Tuesday, Mastercard announced that it plans to provide at least 150,000 Kenyan merchants with access to its Masterpass QR mobile person-to-merchant payment solution, beginning this month.

Kenyan consumers will use the Masterpass QR solution through mobile banking apps, by scanning a QR code at checkout using their smartphone, or entering a merchant identifier into their feature phone.

A Mastercard spokesperson told PaymentFacilitator.com the company is working with both financial institutions and nontraditional partners to expand this solution in Africa. The company announced a relationship with United Bank of Africa in January to connect more than 100,000 Nigerian micromerchants to its network through access to Masterpass QR with technical support from Innovectives, a Nigerian payment facilitator.

The commitment to Kenyan merchant enablement is part of Mastercard’s goal to add 40 million merchants to its network by 2020.

“Kenya is leading the charge in financial inclusion, with the World Bank reporting that 75 percent of its citizens over the age of 15 having a bank account. Masterpass QR has the potential to drive that number up further and more rapidly due to the penetration of mobile devices in the market. Technology is playing an important role to ensuring all citizens have access to solutions that help move them beyond cash,” said Daniel Monehin, division president for Sub-Saharan Africa and head of financial inclusion for international markets at Mastercard in a press release.

The QR code solution can be deployed relatively quickly and inexpensively, making it a particularly useful solution for micro-merchants who are more likely to operate on the go or in spaces such as kiosks where they cannot set up fixed infrastructure, the company spokesperson said.

Also this week, Indian payment facilitator Paytm announced that it has partnered with Jodhpur’s Handicrafts Mela, enabling hundreds of small vendors at that annual event to accept non-cash payments using its own QR code-based app.

“We are looking forward to partner with many more offline events across the country. Enabling our digital payment solution at such events will not only promote entrepreneurship and arts, but also act as a platform to support thousands of skilled artisans and craftsmen across Rajasthan,” said Paytm General Manager Bhuvnesh Dhingra.

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