Today marks an exciting milestone for us and for Africa as we launch the MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion, which is not only the first MasterCard lab to be based on the continent, but the first lab to focus on financial inclusion.
In Africa, there is an urgent need to speed up the creation of commercially viable products and services for the unbanked and under-banked where less than a quarter of adults have an account with a formal financial institution. This means that the majority of Africans lack the financial tools to guard against risk, invest in their futures and build better lives.
Located in Nairobi, Kenya – East Africa’s technology hub – the lab will bring innovation to the heart of where financial inclusion solutions are really needed: it’s innovation by the people, for the people, with the people right where it matters.
With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the labs team will work in close collaboration with local tech start-ups, financial and academic institutions, governments, regulators and other stakeholders to quickly develop practical and cost-effective financial tools. These products and services will be tested in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, then scaled, commercialized and rolled out across Africa and globally to impact more than 100 million people.
This lab builds on the progress we have made on the continent, where we have successfully created a new financial inclusion model that takes our existing digital payments technology and applies it through public and private partnerships to reach those currently excluded.
We are seeing the positive impact of this new model across Africa:
- In East Africa, we partnered with Nakumatt, one of the region’s largest supermarket chains, to roll out one million Nakumatt Global MasterCard Prepaid cards (multi-currency, EMV, contactless card), providing an entry level solution for people who are coming into financial services for the first time.
- In Nigeria, 13 million Nigerians are part of the government’s National Electronic Identity Card pilot project and are receiving identity cards with our payment functionality.
- In Kenya, we partnered with Equity Bank to roll out five million EMV, contactless-enabled debit and prepaid cards to consumers at the bottom of the pyramid.
- We signed a multi-country licencing contract with Ecobank, which will introduce 60% of the Africa’s entire population to MasterCard debit, prepaid and credit cards in 28 African countries.
- In South Africa, MasterCard celebrated a remarkable milestone as citizens now receive their grant disbursement payments electronically through 10 million SASSA MasterCard Debit cards.
- In Egypt, we launched the mobile payment wallet titled “Flous” with Etisalat and the National Bank of Egypt, bringing Etisalat Egypt’s subscriber base safe and convenient payment services through the power of their mobile phones.
The solutions and services that will stem from the new lab will further enable millions of Africans to manage their finances in a much more dignified, convenient and safe way, while helping them to participate in the formal economy.