Pan-African wireless operator airtel is working with Standard Chartered and MasterCard to offer a mobile wallet service featuring a virtual card that is activated by one-time SMS passcodes.
The airtel 1time Shopping Card is to be made available initially in Kenya before being rolled out to markets across Africa, subject to regulatory approvals. It is being pitched as a secure online shopping service for Africa's large unbanked population.
The opportunity for mobile payments is especially significant in Africa, where there are close to 400 million mobile phone users and an unbanked population of 230 million households. By 2014, Africa is expected to see 56% mobile penetration.
Manoj Kohli, airtel CEO says: "The solution will offer consumers a robust e-commerce solution that delivers security, accessibility, acceptance, ability and a global reach. Subsequent phases of the program will allow airtel subscribers to make payment across the MasterCard network."
Using the service, airtel customers shopping online will be able to request a 16-digit single use shopping card number to make their purchases. On completion of the transaction, a confirmation message will be sent to the consumer's handset.
Kariuki Ngari, general manager for consumer banking in Kenya & East Africa with Standard Chartered, comments: "The virtual card is a unique way of ensuring that our customers can transact in the digital world for the first time without having to carry a piece of plastic."