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Visa, the world’s largest credit and debit card network, has unveiled a new product that allows people to access a prepaid account through their mobile phone.
The mobile banking solution is aimed specifically at emerging markets and, according to Visa, offers “unbanked and under-banked” people in those regions a “secure, reliable, globally interoperable electronic payment account”.
“Reaching consumers who have previously lacked access to formal financial services with secure and reliable electronic payments is finally a reality,” said Jim McCarthy, head of product for Visa.
“Mobile technology has become the single most important driver of financial inclusion that is enabling financial institutions, mobile network operators and Visa to connect unbanked consumers to each other and the global economy.”
The first mobile operator to offer the product across its network is the MTN Group. The telecommunications giant, which operates in several emerging market countries throughout Africa and the Middle East, plans to make Visa’s offering available to MTN Mobile Money customers across its markets. As part of the launch, Nigeria and Uganda will be the first to receive it.
According to MTN Group Chief Commercial Officer, Christian de Faria: “The launch of this product with Visa doesn’t only enhance our current mobile money offering, but also represents yet another crucial milestone in our journey to bring value-adding services to the growing population of mobile phone users in our markets.”
Visa says that buying out and integrating Fundamo into its systems allowed it to create “the first globally interoperable mobile payment platform that can connect existing mobile money services with Visa’s global payment network, VisaNet“.
While mobile commerce has taken off, particularly in Africa, it has largely been confined to monetary transfers. Visa says its latest offering takes mobile payments a step further in that it allows for people to make easy cross border payments and ecommerce transactions.
Visa also claims the product will be “incredibly safe”:
“Regardless of transaction size or where consumers make purchases, Visa and the account issuer will be able to authenticate the account holder at the point of transaction by requesting a PIN or password. In addition, Visa’s fraud monitoring capabilities can help mitigate and prevent fraud,” claims the company.
The Visa product offering seems to borrow heavily from Fundamo’s “mobile wallet” — a complete standalone banking solution, which allowed users to make secure payments and transactions from their mobile phone.
Like Fundamo’s mobile wallet, Visa’s offering can be managed through a prepaid companion card, which can be used at ATM’s and Visa accredited merchants.
When the Cape Town-based Fundamo was bought out by Visa, it had more than 50 active mobile platforms across 40 countries, including Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The first markets Visa is looking to target with the new product are in Africa, Asia and Latin America.