Connecting Africa: How Mastercard is transforming the continent’s digital economy

Published 22 days ago
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At its annual customer engagement and thought leadership conference in Southern Africa, the Mastercard Indaba 2024, Gabriel Swanepoel, Country Manager for Southern Africa at Mastercard, sheds light on the technological advancements and economic evolution shaping the continent. Swanepoel highlights Mastercard’s commitment to utilizing technology to enhance cybersecurity, support SMEs, and drive financial inclusion across Africa.

As the digital landscape in Africa continues to transform and evolve, challenges like cybersecurity and customer experience become increasingly critical. Swanepoel highlights the importance of deploying fit-for-purpose technology to ensure safety and efficiency in digital transactions.

“We live in a world that is more interconnected than ever. But the reality of it is that we are also more exposed to bad actors. Mastercard’s commitment is to ensure the financial safety of all stakeholders operating within the ecosystem by innovating tools that facilitate secure and easy transactions—this is crucial for both merchants and consumers alike,” Swanepoel explains.

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“The key to growth is access,”  Swanepoel states as he talks about Mastercard’s approach to enabling SMEs who contribute almost half of Africa’s GDP, yet face a multi-billion-dollar financing gap in the cash economy.

“We believe in the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses that embrace opportunities, provide livelihoods, and support communities across Africa. That’s why we are using our technology, expertise, and partnerships to empower every business everywhere to grow digitally, and succeed in a more connected and inclusive world,” he states.

Mastercard’s operations in South Africa, which has an estimated 2.6  million micro, small and medium enterprises, has grown significantly. “If you look at the numbers from 2021 up until the end of 2023, the card acceptance rate has grown significantly. That is testament to the innovation and deployment of technology that enables the types of transactions that satisfy consumers but also serve merchants.”

Mastercard’s efforts, however, go beyond payment solutions. The global technology leader is committed to helping SMEs get paid, get capital and get digital – safely and securely – wherever they are. Through collaboration with local governments, fintech companies, and startups, Mastercard is scaling solutions that impact the region’s financial ecosystem. “We are building a community of stakeholders who can act together, make a difference, and drive sustainable, lasting impact,” Swanepoel states.

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Mastercard’s vision for Africa also involves enhancing digital infrastructure to support the continent’s growing need for seamless digital transactions. With innovations like tokenization, the company enables consumers to make payments using any device, thus supporting the growing new generation of digitally native consumers. “The proliferation of mobile phones across the continent and the expansion of infrastructure with low-cost point-of-sale devices enable us to provide value and support economies on their digitization journey,” he says.

Cross border remittances are another critical area where Mastercard is making strides. By opening up intra-Africa corridors, Mastercard allows people to send money quickly and efficiently across borders. “For example, if you are a Zimbabwean living in South Africa, you can easily send money back home to your family, who can collect the funds within 30 minutes,” Swanepoel explains.

Mastercard’s commitment to Africa is not just about technology—it’s about empowering communities and creating opportunities for future generations. “Mastercard is in Africa for Africa. By fostering innovation, partnerships, and digital transformation, we aim to drive sustainable, inclusive growth across the continent,” Swanepoel states.

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