Airtel Africa has an existing relationship with Mastercard, linking up in 2019 to allow the telco’s 100 million subscribers access to Mastercard’s networks. Last year, Airtel Africa also entered a partnership with MoneyGram, enabling Airtel Money customers to receive MoneyGram transfers directly into their mobile wallets from more than 200 countries across the world.

Airtel Africa is exploring listing Airtel Mobile Commerce within four years. Airtel Mobile Commerce is currently the holding company for many of Airtel Africa’s mobile money operations, which operate under the Airtel Money brand. The subsidiary operates in 13 countries in Africa, offering mobile wallet deposit and withdrawals, merchant and commercial payments, loans and savings, virtual credit cards, and international money transfers.

Mobile money is a competitive arena with a mix of new startups, but dominated by longstanding fintech operations like M-Pesa. Last April, Safaricom and Vodacom acquired the M-Pesa brand from the UK’s Vodafone, with ambitious plans for expansion.

Despite the massive growth of mobile money service across the continent, companies have found it challenging to roll out their services seamlessly across multiple countries.

“Each market is unique, hence no one-size-fits-all solution,” says Kimathi. “M-Pesa is a success in Kenya but has previously failed in some African markets.” Kimathi thinks Safaricom and Vodacom’s experience in different countries will help with developing products specifically for each market. “I would view it as a long-term plan to be a financial services provider in Africa,” Kimathi said.

Meanwhile, Mastercard’s battle for market share globally is increasingly taking place via fintech startups, and it has raced to beat Visa as a partner for digital banks and financial startups. Africa is proving to be an important battleground in that competition.

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