Vodacom, Alipay collaborate on SA fintech solutions

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Mariam Cassim, chief executive officer of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services.
Mariam Cassim, chief executive officer of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services.

Vodacom says it is ready to launch mobile solutions targeting South African consumers and merchants through a partnership with Alipay.

The telco today announced a technology partnership with Alibaba’s international mobile payment app, which will see the two collaborate to develop a new app for Vodacom.

Vodacom Financial Services will work with Alipay, to “develop a super-app” that it says will not only offer digital experience, but “bring to life a marketplace of goods and services” tailored for SA underpinned by “a digital payments ecosystem designed to serve both the banked and unbanked parts of the population”.

SA’s leading telco says the new technology will also allow access to digital lifestyle solutions, such as streaming music, playing games and watching videos, e-news, or cab-hailing, adding that the application is completely customisable to meet the specific financial and transacting needs of the user.

“Customers and merchants will all find each other on one affordable platform, operated by Vodacom Financial Services, with Alipay as the technology provider,” says Vodacom.

The partnership comes as financial technology is experiencing a period of significant changes, including increase in size, revenue and innovation.

In the past few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a catalytic effect on fintech adoption across the world.

A recent study by the Swiss Finance Institute found that the spread of the virus and related government lockdowns have led to between a 24% and 32% increase in the relative rate of daily downloads of financial mobile applications.

Commenting on the Alipay relationship, Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO, says: “This partnership is a significant milestone in promoting greater financial inclusion within the communities in which we operate, accelerating our financial services aspirations across Africa.

“We already offer South African customers an ecosystem of innovative digital financial services products, but this technology partnership with Alipay will enable us to be on par with leading global digital counterparts quicker and more efficiently.

“We see this as an excellent opportunity for us to reinvent the mobile fintech ecosystem for both consumers and merchants in South Africa and we look forward to achieving this by working with Alipay.”

Operated by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba affiliate, Ant Financial Services Group, Alipay is among the world's largest online and mobile payment platforms, with more than 1.2 billion active users globally.

Guoming Cheng, head of global payment partnerships at Ant Group, says: “Alipay seeks to work with like-minded partners around the world, to bring innovative and inclusive digital daily life services to consumers and small businesses globally. Vodacom Financial Services’ aim is to better serve customers and merchants in South Africa through digital technology, and we look forward to working with them to achieve this.”

Mariam Cassim, chief executive officer of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services, says the country is “on the brink of a new fintech wave in SA” and her department is embarking on developing and creating the “super-app”.

“To achieve this, we are on the lookout for the best skills and talent in the country. We want people who are willing to push the envelope, think creatively and most importantly, use the technology to develop customer-centric digital financial services solutions.

“Globally, we have seen an increase in the convergence of industries. Companies that invest in technology that enables them to understand their customer behaviour better and thereby offer personalised financial, business and lifestyle solutions to their customers are the ones excelling in this space.

“Through our partnership with Alipay, we look forward to applying world-leading digital technologies to facilitate merchant and consumer transactions from a digital wallet on their mobile device.”

Cassim says for consumers, the platform will offer a user-friendly, end-to-end experience that will improve transaction efficiency and introduce easy-to-use money management tools.

“Not only will consumers have the ability to easily and affordably transact, they can also keep track of their monthly spend with each merchant they transact with every day. With a significant number of large and small retailers in Vodacom’s partner and customer network, consumers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to making buying decisions that are right for them.”

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