MasterCard Worldwide, a global payments and technology company, today launched its official East African regional headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
This development brings the number of MasterCard offices across the African continent to five, with other offices operational in Cairo, Casablanca, Lagos, Johannesburg and now Nairobi.
The Right Honorable Raila Odinga, Prime Minister, Republic of Kenya welcomed MasterCard's announcement. "We are pleased to welcome MasterCard to East Africa and in particular to Kenya, as we see the region's growth path continue. MasterCard's products will see the benefits of inclusion into the financial system extend to many more East Africans, giving them the opportunity to transact electronically with people and companies and so keep their precious money safe and secure, helping to build prosperity for their future."
"Nairobi's reputation as an African commerce, trade and development hub made it a strategically sound location for MasterCard to establish its regional headquarters. We believe it is a natural recognition of Kenya's role as the financial heart of the East Africa region," says Daniel Monehin, Area Head, East & West Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, MasterCard Worldwide.
The Nairobi office will act as MasterCard's liaison office for customer banks, business associates and consumers in its main markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Ethiopia and Uganda, as well as across the rest of the East African region, bringing the organisation's knowledge of electronic payments best practice to these markets.
This will include a significant emphasis in the areas of card knowledge and skills development, advising on development of card acceptance infrastructure, new products, and developing partnerships with 'technology enablers,' as well as retailer education and best acceptance practice.
"We are establishing the new Nairobi office as a gateway through which MasterCard will liaise with its existing customers across the East African region. It will also be a launch pad for further expansion across the region, by providing advice to support MasterCard's ongoing quest to shift consumers from traditional cash payments to non-cash payment systems, so that they can avoid the costs, risks and inefficiencies associated with cash," comments Monehin.
Bringing the benefits of electronic payments to people across the African continent is a primary focus for MasterCard. "East Africa, and indeed Africa as a whole, has always been heavily reliant on cash - both in the consumer and corporate sectors," says Charlton Goredema, Vice President and Market Manager for East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands for MasterCard Worldwide. "This dependence is costly - the costs of printing notes and keeping them secure are significant - and cash payments restrict an individual or company's economic activity to their immediate geographic area."
MasterCard has already been active in the Kenyan market working with banks and other business organisations to advise on developing payment solutions that are best suited for Kenyans. Most recently, in collaboration with Airtel & Standard Chartered Bank, the world's first virtual card that operates off a mobile wallet was launched in Kenya.
"PayOnline is a unique virtual card payment solution, developed specifically to address the needs of consumers in Kenya. At the Mobile World Congress 2011 this product was awarded top honours as the Best Mobile Money Product or Solution. PayOnline makes it possible for Kenyan Airtel clients to shop online, even if they do not have a bank account," says Goredema. "This is just one way that MasterCard products are working to extend financial inclusion to all through the development of solutions that take into account the unique attributes of each local market."
"MasterCard products make it simple and safe to process electronic payments anywhere in the world," Goredema points out. "Consumers using electronic payment systems don't have to worry whether the cash they are carrying is sufficient for their intended purchase, and they do not have to fear for their security, as is common when carrying a large amount of cash on their person."
In addition, the electronic payments solutions brought to market by MasterCard facilitate transparency in banking, through innovation and security that provide clear transaction records at every step, allowing protection from fraudulent activities. Goredema believes that these solutions are key to the continued success of East Africa's rapid economic growth.
"MasterCard's products include debit, prepaid, mobile and credit card payment solutions, which can be used to avoid the pitfalls of cash," says Goredema. "We have already used these products in a variety of revolutionary applications on the African continent, including prepaid solutions for transport, and the secure disbursement of citizens' social security payments."
MasterCard's global payments expertise will be very relevant across East Africa and particularly in Kenya, as the country evolves to implement the National Payments Systems Bill, passed by the country's government during 2011.
"We believe that the Bill is a recognition that efficient payment mechanisms are essential to the development of the Kenyan economy, and we look forward to working with policymakers to bring electronic payment solutions to this market," says Goredema. "We have worked on similar projects across the globe, where we have responded to local needs with products that offer the best of MasterCard's global experience."
MasterCard will also be offering the services of MasterCard Advisors into the East African region, helping to ensure that best-practice principles are implemented across the payments network. MasterCard Advisors is the professional services arm of MasterCard that provides payments consulting, information, analytics, and customised services to financial institutions, governments and retailers worldwide.
"We have invested significant resources into understanding East Africa, its business dynamics, how its consumers operate and the unique conditions that make this region one of the most exciting places to do business," says Goredema. "We realise that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy and each market has its own unique challenges, opportunities and needs. MasterCard has invested extensively in research both on the African continent, and globally, and we are equipped to offer advice on payment industry best practice at every level.
"For MasterCard, the opportunities Africa brings forth will push the payments frontier faster and further than ever before and we continue our vision to realise a world beyond cash, bringing greater efficiencies to the payments system," concludes Goredema. "We look forward to now working even more closely with our customer financial institutions, businesses and consumers across East Africa to leverage new technologies and innovative payment methods to enable safe, simple and convenient ways for consumers to pay."