Mastercard to open Zimbabwe office, targets booming informal market and region

Mastercard is to open an office in Zimbabwe as it looks to tap in to the country’s growing digital payments business, the company has said. 

Mastercard President and CEO, Ajay Banga, this week visited Zimbabwe and held meetings with Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, RBZ governor John Mangudya and the heads of several private firms in telecoms, banking and retail. 

“Banga also disclosed Mastercard’s plans to establish an office in Harare, Zimbabwe to coordinate its efforts to address financial inclusion – a pressing challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa where only 42.6 percent of the adult population has access to an account,” Mastercard said in a statement. 

The company said its new office would allow Mastercard to provide support to its customers in neighbouring Southern African countries.

With cash in short supply, electronic transactions now account for over 96% of payments in Zimbabwe. In the first half of 2018, $65 billion worth of transactions were carried on various electronic platforms, up 217% on previous year. In total, there were 856 million electronic transactions over the period. 

“Too many people and businesses are still excluded from the financial mainstream. This leaves them without the things we take for granted – a way to save money for a rainy day, get loans, or insure themselves or their crops,” says Banga. “Harnessing our global technologies and expertise, our Zimbabwean team will closely collaborate with all stakeholders to solve local challenges and enable more inclusion in the formal financial system.”

Mastercard recently agreed a deal with with EcoCash to launch EcoCash Scan & Pay, which offers a mobile payments solution targeting mostly small businesses.

While mobile money has boomed in Zimbabwe, up to 70% of the population does not have bank accounts. A central bank report earlier this year said there are only 57 000 bank accounts held by small businesses, which is just one percent of the total number of accounts held by banks.