Visa and Bharti Airtel have struck a deal that will introduce various new digital payment services to the operator’s existing money subscribers in seven of the seventeen African markets where it has a presence.
The two firms will introduce the services to Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles and Tanzania. Existing Airtel Money subscribers in these markets will be able to pay in stores and online in places where Visa is accepted – one of the new services will become possible through the new alliance.
Bharti Airtel has high hopes for money services. For instance, it recently bid for a licence to run a fancy-free payments bank in its home market of India.
In Africa, it is making inroads, with Airtel Money service reaching a total base of 6.2 million in Q3 (end-December 2014) from 2.7 million a year earlier. And the value of the transactions it handled was $2.93 billion, a 71 per cent increase over the previous year.
And Airtel wants to grow that figure further by joining forces with the likes of Visa. Following the latest deal, Airtel users will be able to draw cash from ATMs and make payments from their Airtel accounts. For both transactions, users will need to have a Airtel Money Visa card, which is already available in Kenya and will be introduced in other markets early this year.
Airtel Money can also be used for micro-payments, funds transfers, purchasing airtime, pre-paid electricity and internet access.
Using the Airtel money account eliminates the need to pay bills in cash, which often also involves queueing to make the payment as well as carrying large sums of cash.
“For most new subscribers, this will represent their first payment account and bring some of the latest digital payment advancements into the everyday experiences of Airtel’s customers,” said Vish Sowani, Visa’s vice president of MNO partnerships.