Presented by Mastercard

Mastercard’s drive to increase digital payment adoption in Africa

Mastercard’s recent acquisition of mobile payments technology company Oltio from Standard Bank will see the company complementing its digital payment strategy to displace cash in emerging markets across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

This is according to Mastercard Vice-President of Business Integration, Gabriel Swanepoel, who stated that digital and mobile payments offer an easier and more secure way for customers to make payments.

Mastercard’s acquisition of Oltio – a start-up that pioneered several payment solutions – follows a long relationship with the company. In 2014, Oltio was appointed as a service provider to Mastercard to develop and launch the Masterpass digital wallet in South Africa.

Masterpass is Mastercard’s interoperable platform that allows bank customers in South Africa to use their PIN and mobile phone to authenticate purchases, removing the need for a physical card while providing simplicity, security and convenience to consumers. The platform has seen impressive growth in the region.

Swanepoel said mobile payments are gaining equity among consumers who want to pay for goods and services using their mobile phone wherever they shop, be it online, in an app or at a physical retailer.

“Part of the reason for Mastercard’s acquisition of Oltio is to leverage Oltio’s technology, people and infrastructure to enhance and scale our digital products; it allows Mastercard to continue supporting banks in expanding the growth and adoption of digital payments, while ensuring real consumer pain points are addressed,” said Swanepoel.

Using mobile payments on a smartphone, customers can leave their physical bank card at home while still being able to process transactions secured by their bank PIN and either biometrics or additional passwords on their device.

As an example, Spazapp enables micro merchants to accept electronic payments via Masterpass. Consumers simply scan a QR code on the merchant’s device using their phone, enter their bank PIN and the transaction is completed.

What is also interesting is that spaza stores can also use the app for bulk buying opportunities, and settle their accounts by scanning a QR code on the delivery bill with Masterpass. This circumvents the need for cash in a society where trading in cash not only carries security risks, but also high costs.


Swanepoel said the expansion of digital payments in South Africa requires a balance between consumer demand for new technologies and enabling legacy environments for digital payments to ensure the broadest availability for both consumers and merchants across channels (in-store, online, in-app), and devices (feature phones and smartphones).

“You need to provide solutions where people can accept any means of payment, be it through a POS device, in an app or scanning a QR code,” said Swanepoel.

Mastercard has therefore started scaling digital payments solutions across South Africa, many of which are built to offer tap-and-pay and scan-to-pay experiences.

“This will be extended into other channels as well, allowing for much easier checkout capability online, and at brick and mortar merchants,” said Swanepoel.

From a merchant perspective, Mastercard will enhance and scale its omni-channel acceptance solutions, enabling even the smallest businesses to accept digital payments using efficient and affordable technology such as QR codes – from big retailers to smaller spaza shops.

Swanepoel said the trick to adoption is to accomplish this in an efficient and consumer-friendly way.


Swanepoel concluded by stating that Mastercard’s acquisition of Oltio further bolsters its focus on continued innovation and its plans to offer scaling support for digital payments – displacing cash, empowering people and supporting the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to drive growth across Africa and the Middle East.

“It is important for us to continue innovating and address the needs of merchants and consumers,” he said.

He added that Mastercard is expanding its digital features and products continuously and is looking to expand into different channels and merchant environments.

Over the coming months, Mastercard will leverage Oltio’s technology to work towards this goal, enabling seamless payment experiences for more consumers in emerging economies.

This article was published in partnership with Mastercard.

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Mastercard’s drive to increase digital payment adoption in Africa