MasterCard Chases Africa’s Poorest to Tap Continent’s Growth

MasterCard Inc., the second-biggest U.S. payments network, has distributed 10 million South African debit cards that replace cash for social grant recipients as it boosts market share across Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

The company is working with the government of Africa’s richest nation after agreeing to issue 13 million debit cards in Nigeria which will also act as identity documents, Ann Cairns, president of international markets for MasterCard, said in an interview in Pretoria. The company is also expanding in Angola and Mozambique and working with local partners such as Kenya’s Equity Bank Ltd. for growth, she said.

MasterCard is counting on the continent’s expansion and rising levels of wealth to help it distribute financial products to the more than 200 million people in Africa still without access to banking services, according to McKinsey & Co.. Mobile operators like South Africa’s MTN Group Ltd. and banks like Togo’s Ecobank Transnational Inc. are also trying to reach Africa’s poorest by offering easier access to bank accounts and the ability to transfer money without going into a branch.

“We think financial inclusion can be brought by different instruments,” Cairns said.

MasterCard will be able to realize the “big promise of Africa” if it can grow its payment systems, Michael Miebach, MasterCard’s president of Middle East and Africa, said in the same interview.

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