Visa Inc on November 16 announced a mobile prepaid product for developing countries which will help serve unbanked and under-banked consumers and includes both financial services and electronic payment capabilities, according to a press release. The product, a Visa mobile prepaid account that can be accessed through a mobile phone, offers consumers in developing countries a secure, reliable, globally interoperable electronic payment account.
The product is a result of Visa’s acquisition of Fundamo, a mobile money and finacial services provider whose platform had considerable reach in developing countries. Merging that existing mobile money platform with Visa’s global payment network, VisaNet has created this new globally interoperable mobile payment platform.
Today, more than one hundred(1) mobile money programs provide consumers in developing countries with basic financial services, with several more being planned by mobile network operators and financial institutions. Visa’s new product will enhance the security, scale and interoperability of these mobile money programs, while extending their payment functionality by enabling account holders to send funds to each other, send and receive international remittances, make purchases at merchants or online where Visa is accepted or withdraw funds at a Visa ATM.
“Reaching consumers who have previously lacked access to formal financial services with secure and reliable electronic payments is finally a reality,” said Jim McCarthy, head of product for Visa Inc. “Mobile technology has become the single most important driver of financial inclusion that is enabling financial institutions, mobile network operators and Visa to connect unbanked consumers to each other and the global economy.”
MTN is the first company that plans to offer this product to its customers across Africa, Asia and the Middle East but is launching the product in Nigeria and Uganda initially. The product is tied to their Mobile Money platform which already has about 5.7 millon registered users in 12 countries.
There are many exciting aspects to the product including enhanced payment security by leveraging Visa’s security expertise, expannded capabilities for both remittances and electronic payments and enhanced transaction authorization, clearing and settlement services for banks and financial services providers.
The most exciting prospect of this is that finally the mobile money platforms introduced into Ghana (MTN Mobile Money; Tigo Cash; Airtel Money) all have the potentail to become more beneficial to local consumers who get an internationally payment account. Local merchants and brands who are attuned to changing needs of Ghanaians consumers can also deploy innovative valued added services like loyalty reward schemes tied into an internationally accepted platform like Visa.
Visa it seems is finally ready to play in Africa (and other developing economies) via the most prevalent technology platform here, mobile, but we have to wait and see if the final product recognizes the growing middle clases in Africa, Asia and the Middle East or is just a rebrand of the often limited third world solutions existing today.