Partnership to boost financial inclusion in under-served communities in South Africa
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Johannesburg, South Africa: MasterCard and Blue Label Telecoms Limited (Blue Label) today announced a partnership that will see 22,000 small traders and rural shops in South Africa equipped with Point of Sale (POS) devices, enabling them to accept card payments for the first time.

Blue Label currently provides thousands of POS terminals in South Africa, which are used predominantly to sell prepaid vouchers such as airtime and electricity and are identified by the BLU Approved branding. Servicing millions of customers in rural areas and under-served settlements, these BLU Approved traders have historically operated on a cash-only basis.

“Over and above the estimated 100,000 spaza[1] shops spread across South Africa, there are tens of thousands of small- and medium-sized retailers and service providers. Through our partnership with MasterCard, we will introduce many of these businesses to the safety, security, and convenience of electronic payments, enabling financial inclusion in communities where consumers have largely been unable to use formal payment products,” says Mark Levy, Joint CEO, Blue Label. 

“While the number of South Africans with access to formal banking products has increased significantly in the last year, the number of card acceptance locations – especially in rural and peri-urban areas – has not grown in tandem,” says Philip Panaino, Division President, MasterCard, South Africa.

Blue Label will introduce innovative solutions to increase the number of MasterCard card acceptance locations in South African townships and informal settlements, with the intention of rolling out more than 15,000 new EMV-certified, contactless-ready POS terminals. These will allow traders to accept Chip and PIN and contactless payment cards for goods and services and to sell Blue Label’s prepaid vouchers using a single device.

Blue Label also plans to upgrade some 7,000 of its existing terminals used in smaller spaza stores using MasterCard Mobile software. The MasterCard Mobile payment platform will enable MasterCard cardholders to use their PIN-based debit, cheque or credit card issued by Standard Bank, Absa, Nedbank and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and their mobile phone to pay for their purchases in-store at select BLU Approved merchants.

“This is the first time MasterCard Mobile is made available to consumers in the physical retail environment. This innovation is a cost-effective payment mechanism that doesn’t require customers to open another bank account,” explains Panaino.

Both of these payment solutions will assist merchants to reduce the amount of cash they currently handle, which can be unsafe and costly to process, increase sales, and improve cashflow. Merchants will also be able to offer cash-back and cash withdrawals to their customers, and provide them with the flexibility to pay the way they want to.

Cashless shopping provides many benefits to consumers, who will no longer have their shopping habits determined by whether or not they have cash in their wallets. They will also not be burdened by concerns related to safely carrying cash.

“These new solutions will enable our merchants to respond directly to their customers’ increasing and frequent requests to use payment cards at POS terminals to pay for their goods,” says Levy.

“Our collaboration with Blue Label is another step by MasterCard towards realising our vision of a world beyond cash by bringing new and innovative electronic payment solutions to a generation of customers who are mostly banked, but are currently underserved. Through the introduction of these solutions that respond directly to the needs of merchants, MasterCard and Blue Label aim to increase the level of penetration of electronic payments in South Africa, and help stimulate economic growth,” concludes Panaino.

 Ann Cairns - April Nkosi_BLT Soweto Site Visit
Ann Cairns, President of International Markets, MasterCard (left), visited Love Ntuli Distributors, a small BLU Approved merchant in Soweto, South Africa, where she completed the first live, in-store MasterCard Mobile transaction with April Nkosi from Blue Label Telecoms Limited

Note to the Editor:
Between March 2012 and July 2012, the SASSA Debit MasterCard card was cited as the main contributing factor to the 4% growth in the country’s banked population from 63% in 2011, to 67% in 2012 according to the FinScope South Africa 2012 survey. As at July 2012, 2.5 million SASSA MasterCard cards had been issued to grant recipients. Since then an additional 7.5 million cards have been issued to grant recipients which should further increase financial inclusion in South Africa.

 About MasterCard
MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews and @MasterCardMEA, join the discussion on the Cashless Conversations Blog and subscribe for the latest news.

About Blue Label Telecoms
Listed on the JSE: BLU. Blue Label’s core business is the virtual distribution of secure electronic tokens of value, predominantly prepaid airtime and electricity, and transactional services across its global footprint of touch points. The Group’s stated strategy is to extend its global footprint of touch points, both organically and acquisitively, to fulfil the significant demand for the delivery of multiple prepaid products and services through a single distributor, across various delivery mechanisms and via numerous merchants or vendors. See:

Media Contact:
MasterCard: Birgit Fawkes, , +27 11 208 5500
Blue Label: Michael Campbell,, +27 11 523 3101

[1] Small scale, home-based grocery stores