Mastercard to bring 500m people into digital economy in 2020

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Suzanne Morel, country manager for Mastercard SA.
Suzanne Morel, country manager for Mastercard SA.

Mastercard has reinforced its commitment to bring 500 million people across the globe to the digital economy before the end of 2020.

This was the word from Suzanne Morel, country manager for Mastercard SA, speaking at the Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit, in Durban, on Friday.

Addressing delegates in a talk themed: ‘Together We Lead: Women by Design’, Morel discussed the role of innovation in unlocking the potential of Africa’s economy, throughexpanding access to financial products and services, particularly for the underserved communities.

In 2015, Mastercard made a commitment to reach 500 million people previously excluded from financial services by 2020. At the time, the financial services company highlighted that reaching full financial inclusion by 2020 requires active engagement and partnerships with the private sector, governments and international development organisations.

MasterCard has over 500 programmes aimed at driving financial inclusion across the globe.

In collaboration with the World Bank, the United Nations and other stakeholders, Mastercard committed to provide access to a transaction account or an electronic payment platform to store money, send and receive payments, breaking down barriers for micro-businesses and providing consumers with digital financial services.

“We have a goal of bringing 500 million people into the digital economy by 2020 and we are going to achieve that goal this year,” noted Morel.

“To reach this goal, we are applying our best assets – tools, technology, insights, funding, partnerships and expertise – to improve the lives of people and communities around the world. We have a huge responsibility to not only introduce innovative payment services but to also deliver real value in contributing to financial inclusion in the African economy with a particular focus on women.”

According to Mastercard, the potential for digital growth is largely untapped, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Globally, 37% of person-to-merchant payments are digital.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, this percentage drops to 16%. Addressing these opportunities can unlock the spending potential of financially underserved populations, who collectively spend more than $5 trillion per year in cash, stated Morel.

While she did not reveal how many people the company has provided financial inclusion for, thus far, she highlighted the various programmes and initiatives Mastercard is running, in efforts to meet its goal in the next six months.

In 2016, Mastercard introduced Mastercard Send to allow users to send funds digitally to a recipient, via a mobile phone, prepaid payment card or cash-out agents. In 2017, Vocalink, a Mastercard company, launched PromptPay, through which registered customers in various markets can make instant person-to-person transfers, using only their phone number or citizen ID.

In SA, the company has a partnership with uKheshe, to enable unbanked informal traders and street vendors to accept digital payments via Masterpass, Mastercard’s digital payment service.

Financial inclusion imperative for women

According to Morel, in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, the loss in global wealth from gender inequality is estimated at $2.5 trillion. More than 37% of women do not have bank accounts, and more than half of women SME owners lack access to finance, and face an estimated $42 billion financing gap.

“This means a staggering number of women still transact in cash. We want to achieve this 500 million goal at the end of the year, knowing that we have provided mostly women with financial access that affords them the dignity they deserve,” continuedMorel.

“We have also introduced Mastercard labs, which are innovation hubs that use data and insights to understand issues faced by women and how we can support female businesses.”

Through its Girls4Tech programme, and other female-focused initiatives, Mastercard seeks to develop a strong pipeline of talent by encouraging girls to embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, to prepare them for the workforce of the future, she said.

“It’s predicted that African women will only achieve equality in 100 years; however, I would like to see equality in my lifetime and not have to wait that long.”

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