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Airtel, Standard Chartered and MasterCard –roll out World’s First Virtual Card on Mobile Phone

By Emmanuel Otokhine
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Nairobi, Kenya, 14 September 2011 – Airtel Africa, Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard Worldwide have today announced the commercial launch of the world's first virtual card that operates off a mobile wallet linked to Airtel's mobile commerce offering – Airtel money. While initially launched in Kenya, this product will soon be available across Africa.

The groundbreaking mobile commerce product known as 'PayOnline' will give consumers across the continent greater financial inclusivity in the global e-commerce sector. Registered Airtel customers will be able to make online purchases from any site where MasterCard is accepted. The single use shopping card will be initially available in Kenya for purchases made from non-Kenyan websites. The second phase of the program will see the rollout of the online product across Airtel markets.

The tripartite partnership signals the growing realizations by players in the e-commerce sector of the expected growth in mobile payments and contactless card payments in the next decade. Airtel's consumer penetration in Africa backed by the financial structuring and regulatory framework expertise by Standard Chartered Bank combined with the global acceptance of MasterCard will provide the consumer with a compelling product that is fast, secure and convenient.

The one-time basis of the product has provided the consumer with a simple but secure payment process bereft of complex reconciliation and integration processes associated with other online transactions. The simplified online transaction will follow the process; Airtel Customers will be able to request a one-time virtual card number with the amount of purchase. Airtel money services platform will generate a special 16 digit number that enables the completion of the transaction. On completion of the transaction, a confirmation message will be sent to the consumer's handset.

Speakers at a launch ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya, were unanimous in their analysis of the power of the mobile phone in leading and forging customer relationships through innovative payment solutions in alliance with banking partners.

Commented N Arjun, Chief Projects and Transformation Officer, Airtel Africa: “The sustained socio-economic changes witnessed in Africa over the last decade have shown that the continent has the ability to leapfrog conventional systems and embrace innovations on platforms such as the mobile phone. At Airtel Africa, we believe the delivery of innovative and relevant solutions that tackle consumer's daily challenges play an important role in bolstering a country's economy through communication and mobile commerce.”

He added: “The launch of Airtel Money and subsequent offers under Service Payments, Money Transfer, top ups and Mobile Banking is proof of our commitment in converting innovations into sustainable economic development”.

Daniel Monehin, MasterCard's area head for East & West Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, MasterCard Worldwide said, "The connected world is shrinking at a rapid pace as people turn to mobile phones to connect with friends and make purchases on-the-go. We saw that people want more options in making their payments easier and more convenient which is why we joined hands with airtel and Standered Chartered Bank to help make people's lives easier with this innovative new product.”

“Financially empowering the citizens of Kenya is a rewarding experience, not only for consumers themselves, but for the various institutions and merchants that are involved in doing so. MasterCard looks forward to working with Standard Charted Bank and airtel to continue promoting the advantages of electronic payments and to accelerate the displacement of cash and cheques in Kenya,” he adds.

Commenting on Standard Chartered's behalf, Kariuki Ngari, Executive Director Kenya, and Cluster Head, East Africa Consumer Banking, “As a leading international bank in Africa, we are always looking for ways to bring innovative financial solutions to our customers in line with our brand promise: Here for good. We have been in Kenya for 100 years and have always been at the forefront of introducing new products and services to the market. The PayOnline solution is a unique way of ensuring that our customers can transact in the digital world for the first time without having to have a credit card or use their physical debit card.

airtel PayOnline, will enable more Kenyan consumers to connect to the global marketplace via their mobile phones no matter where they are in the world,”.

The global opportunity for mobile payments is growing. According IE Market Research Corporation the global mobile purchases will reach $ 224.4 Billion by 2014. In the latest IEMR global mobile payment forecast, the research firm opines that that merchandise purchase growth will closely track overall growth in mobile payments globally.

The PayOnline solution is compatible with all mobile phones and operating systems via a configured update from Airtel customer service. Equally, the three partners have instituted a raft of security controls to ensure probity and secure transactions.