NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2 – MasterCard Worldwide has opened its regional headquarters in Nairobi, the fifth such office in Africa.
The Nairobi office will act as MasterCard’s liaison office for customer banks, business associates and consumers in its main markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Ethiopia and Uganda, as well as across the rest of the East African region, bringing the organisation’s knowledge of electronic payments best practice to these markets.
“Nairobi’s reputation as an African commerce, trade and development hub made it a strategically sound location for MasterCard to establish its regional headquarters. We believe it is a natural recognition of Kenya’s role as the financial heart of the East Africa region,” said Daniel Monehin, Area Head, East and West Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, MasterCard Worldwide.
He said the office will give significant emphasis in the areas of card knowledge and skills development, advising on development of card acceptance infrastructure, new products, and developing partnerships with ‘technology enablers,’ as well as retailer education and best acceptance practice.
“We are establishing the new Nairobi office as a gateway through which MasterCard will liaise with its existing customers across the East African region. It will also be a launch pad for further expansion across the region, by providing advice to support MasterCard’s ongoing quest to shift consumers from traditional cash payments to non-cash payment systems, so that they can avoid the costs, risks and inefficiencies associated with cash,” he added.
The firm’s entry into the region’s market is expected to increase use of electronic payments, and shift dependence from the current mainly cash-based transactions.
“This dependence is costly – the costs of printing notes and keeping them secure are significant – and cash payments restrict an individual or company’s economic activity to their immediate geographic area,” said Charlton Goredema, Vice President and Market Manager for East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands for MasterCard Worldwide.
MasterCard has already been active in the Kenyan market working with banks and other business organisations to advise on developing payment solutions.
The company recently launched the world’s first virtual card that operates off a mobile wallet. The project was rolled out in collaboration with Airtel and Standard Chartered Bank.
“PayOnline is a unique virtual card payment solution, developed specifically to address the needs of consumers in Kenya. At the Mobile World Congress 2011 this product was awarded top honours as the Best Mobile Money Product or Solution,” said Goredema.
PayOnline makes it possible for Airtel clients to shop online, even if they do not operate a bank account.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga welcomed MasterCard’s entry into Kenya, saying it was a vote of confidence on Kenya as a regional economic hub.
“MasterCard’s products will see the benefits of inclusion into the financial system extend to many more East Africans, giving them the opportunity to transact electronically with people and companies and so keep their precious money safe and secure, helping to build prosperity for their future.”