Airtel Money has launched the Airtel Money Mastercard virtual payment service in Zambia, enabling all Airtel Money customers in the country, even those without a bank account, to make global e-commerce payments. The deal forms part of Airtel’s strategic partnership with Mastercard to give over 100 million Airtel Africa mobile phone users across 14 African countries access to Mastercard’s global network.
The virtual payment system is linked to Airtel Money wallets and can be used to make a wide range of payments to online merchants that accept Mastercard. Users in Zambia can shop at well-known global e-commerce brands, book and pay for travel or online services such as utility bills or subscriptions through Mastercard on Airtel Money wallets. The payment system will also enable small businesses to procure goods and services from suppliers, either in Zambia or from abroad.
This partnership with Mastercard intends to extend the reach of Airtel Money, by giving subscribers the ability to pay for goods and services outside the existing network of Airtel Money. Essentially it gives credit card access to customers who do not even have a bank account. This arrangement, linked to existing Airtel Money accounts, allows these customers to do transactions with merchants all over the world that are not currently part of the Airtel ecosystem.
The customer base is potentially huge, consisting of over 100 million mobile subscribers not only in Zambia but in 13 other countries in Africa. And the group of potential e-commerce sellers that accept Mastercard is, of course, even bigger. The inclusion of small businesses could be a particularly strong move for Airtel, as the amounts of money involved in the purchases could be quite a bit larger than in the consumer sector.
Mobile money accounts started out being intended for the unbanked, and that is still a priority in developing countries, especially in Africa. But, as exemplified by this offer, mobile money has grown well beyond its modest beginnings and now allows for the free movement of funds in a wide range of consumer and business transactions.