In an exclusive interview at the recently held Africa Fintech Summit in Lusaka, we had a chat with Vincent Malekani, the Country Business Development Director for Zambia and Malawi at Mastercard. We delved into Mastercard’s journey in Zambia over the past decade and its vision for the future. Malekani’s insights reveal a strategic shift towards embracing digital innovation and financial inclusion, transforming the way Zambians handle their finances.
A Decade of Commitment
Mastercard has been a key player in Zambia for over a decade, with a primary focus on ensuring that Mastercard users experience seamless transactions. Their approach has been twofold: enhancing the point of issuing and acquiring, and forging strategic partnerships with non-traditional financial players such as fintech companies and telcos. While the primary aim has been to expand the reach of Mastercard, Malekani highlights the importance of its unique strategy, which includes collaborating with banks that are not part of the mainstream financial ecosystem.
The results of these efforts have already begun to bear fruit. Mastercard has successfully partnered with fintech innovators like ChitChat, and they have also signed agreements with all major telcos and nearly ten fintech companies. According to Malekani, these developments are a prelude to an exciting year ahead.
Digital Transformation in the Wake of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a fundamental shift towards digital transactions and e-commerce in Zambia. As more people turned to digital platforms for their financial needs, the gap between those who could make digital transactions and those who couldn’t. Even individuals who were initially skeptical about the security of e-commerce platforms started to embrace online shopping.
Mastercard recognized the urgency of optimizing e-commerce platforms for seamless payment checkouts and, as a result, embarked on collaborations with fintech companies. The upcoming year is poised to be a period of innovation and progress, with numerous exciting developments on the horizon.
BNPL: Empowering Purchasing Power
One of Mastercard’s innovative solutions that is set to impact the Zambian market is its Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) product. This offering promises to increase purchasing power by allowing users to make purchases without the immediate financial burden. Users can make payments even without sufficient funds in their accounts, provided their Mastercard is enrolled for BNPL.
To facilitate this seamless process, Mastercard is working closely with fintech companies like Lupiya and PremierCredit, with the aim of connecting banks, microfinance companies, and other financial institutions to the BNPL ecosystem. This collaborative approach ensures that individuals can access this convenient payment option regardless of their preferred financial service provider.
Driving Financial Inclusion
Beyond their commitment to expanding their reach in Zambia, Mastercard is deeply committed to promoting financial inclusion. As a technology-focused business operating in 210 countries, Mastercard connects various stakeholders in the financial ecosystem, including consumers, banks, private entities, retailers, fintechs, telcos, and governments. While they connect consumers, it’s essential to note that Mastercard operates primarily as a B2B (business-to-business) entity, working closely with financial partners to roll out their solutions.
Mastercard’s overarching goal is ambitious: to bring one billion financially excluded individuals into the digital economy. Out of this, 50 million individuals are expected to be Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with an additional 25 million specifically being women. Malekani said Mastercard is actively collaborating with fintech companies that prioritize digital inclusion.
Fintech Initiatives: Start Path and Mastercard Engage
Start Path helps fintechs access strategic partnerships, co-innovation opportunities, and engagement with Mastercard’s global network. It has a suite of programs focusing on Blockchain and Digital Assets, Emerging Fintech, In Solidarity, Open Banking, Small Businesses, and more. Some numbers to note are that it has helped over 355 startups in 43 countries to raise over US$15 billion in capital, with over 15,000 network connections around the world.
Mastercard Engage serves as a platform to expose technology enablers to other fintech companies, promoting a collaborative approach to innovation.