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MasterCard Launches Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) Testing Platform

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Photo: WazeerX

With the global economy racing to embrace digital payments, Central Banks also are looking to the future and investigating how to support innovation while maintaining monetary policy and financial stability as they issue and distribute currency.

A recent survey by the Bank for International Settlements showed that 80 per cent of Central Banks surveyed are engaging in some form of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) work, and about 40 per cent of Central Banks have progressed from conceptual research to experimenting with concept and design.

MasterCard on Wednesday announced a proprietary virtual testing environment for Central Banks to evaluate CBDC use cases.

The platform enables the simulation of issuance, distribution and exchange of CBDCs between banks, financial service providers and consumers.

Central Banks, commercial banks, and tech and advisory firms are invited to partner with MasterCard to assess CBDC tech designs, validate use cases and evaluate interoperability with existing payment rails available for consumers and businesses today.

MasterCard is a leader in operating multiple payment rails and convening partners to ensure a level playing field for everyone – from banks to businesses to mobile network operators – in order to bring the most people possible into the digital economy.

MasterCard wants to harness its expertise to enable the practical, safe and secure development of digital currencies.

“Central Banks have accelerated their exploration of digital currencies with a variety of objectives, from fostering financial inclusion to modernizing the payments ecosystem,” said Raj Dhamodharan, Executive Vice President, Digital Asset and Blockchain Products and Partnerships, MasterCard.

“MasterCard is driving innovation with the public sector, banks, fintechs, and advisory firms in the exploration of CBDCs, working with partners that are aligned to our core values and principles.

“This new platform supports Central Banks as they make decisions now and in the future about the path forward for local and regional economies,” Dhamodharan added.

Sheila Warren, Head of Blockchain, Digital Assets and Data Policy at the World Economic Forum, said: “Collaborations between the public and private sectors in the exploration of Central Bank Digital Currencies can help Central Banks better understand the range of technology possibilities and capabilities available with respect to CBDCs.

“Central Banks can benefit from support in exploring the options set available to them with respect to CBDCs, as well as gaining insight into what opportunities may be forthcoming.”

CBDCs are designed to be equivalent in value to a nation’s paper currency and subject to the same government-backed guarantees.

In addition to printing money, Central Banks can issue CBDCs as a digital representation of a country’s fiat currency.

While a variety of potential operating models exist, the primary approach sees Central Banks issuing and distributing currency, including digital currencies, through commercial banks and other licensed payments providers.

MasterCard understands every Central Bank differs in its exploration of CBDCs, and the platform stands ready to explore whether CBDCs fit with the needs of a region or country.

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M-Pesa Scores Another Fintech First, Joins United For Wildlife Financial Taskforce

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Photo: Courtesy ITNews Africa

M-Pesa said it has become the first mobile money provider in Africa to join the Financial Taskforce established by United for Wildlife, a coalition of charities that works to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, reports ITNews Africa.

The M-Pesa mobile money system has become Africa’s most popular financial services provider and the continent’s leading financial technology platform.

M-Pesa is actively used by 41.5 million customers across seven African countries who make over 12.2 billion transactions per annum.

The platform also enables individuals and businesses to pay bills, create savings and loan accounts and to access overdraft facilities, commercial services and healthcare.

“The environment remains a critical, shared communal resource and has been under threat from the illegal trade of wildlife. The future of our economy, families and children, therefore, depends on protecting our wildlife and our natural ecosystems,” says Sitoyo Lopokoyit, CEO of M-Pesa Africa.

Vodacom Group International Markets Chief Officer, Diego Gutierrez added, “Financial institutions, together with the broader private sector, have a responsibility to do whatever is within their collective power to help preserve the world’s natural heritage by combating illicit funds from the illegal wildlife trade.

“Through M-Pesa, the Vodacom Group is pleased to join forces with various other signatories to support the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce.”

Kate Bedwell, Head of Governance, Risk and Compliance for M-Pesa, explained that “criminal activity not only endangers animals and threatens the security of rangers but also contributes to the spread of zoonotic diseases – infections caused by a pathogen that has jumped from animal to humans – such as COVID-19 and Ebola.”

United for Wildlife’s Financial Taskforce was established in 2018 via a Declaration signed at Mansion House in London. The Declaration commits signatories to use financial intelligence and resources to support law enforcement efforts to pursue the illegal wildlife trade’s greatest beneficiaries.

Lopokoyit concluded, “M-Pesa will play a critical role in the mission to stop the illegal wildlife trade by ensuring that there are no illegal funds going through our platform to support or to help this illegal activity.”

 

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Accelerex Holdings Secures $20m Investment From Africa Capital Alliance

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Accelerex Holdings has announced that it has signed an investment agreement with regional private equity firm, Africa Capital Alliance (ACA), for the Capital Alliance Private Equity IV (CAPE IV) fund to invest $20 million in Accelerex.

With this investment, CAPE IV will become a strategic partner in Accelerex and will hold three seats on the company’s board.

Accelerex, which is the parent Company of African Fintech powerhouse, Global Accelerex Limited, was set up for investment into digital financial technology companies across Africa.

Global Accelerex was incorporated in 2008 and commenced payments services operation in October 2013 upon obtaining approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The company consistently ranked as the Number 1 Payment Terminal Service Provider in Nigeria in 2018 and 2019 and supports 95% of Nigerian banks and over 90,000 Merchants across the 36 states in the country.

Accelerex commenced operations in Ghana in 2019 and plans to expand into Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa over the next 24 months with the new investment from ACA.

This funding will also drive new product development across the group.

The agency banking arm of Accelerex, Accelerex Network Limited (ANL) is a major driver of financial inclusion in Nigeria.

It supports the Federal Government of Nigeria and the CBN’s financial inclusion agenda, targeted at the underserved and unserved segments of the population.

Accelerex Network Limited has grown its Agent network to over 9,000 agents within the last 12 months and plans to reach 40,000 agents by the end of 2021.

In addition, Accelerex also acquired a majority stake in SLS Microfinance Bank to serve the financial needs of its fast-growing agent banking business.

In 2019, Accelerex acquired a significant minority stake in Connected Analytics (also known as ThankUCash), a Fintech platform provider that enables merchants to offer loyalty rewards to their customers thereby boosting their sales.

Tunde Ogungbade, CEO of Global Accelerex, said “I am very excited by the ACA investment. In our quest for the right investment and strategic partner, we were looking for a company that shares our vision to empower businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa to exceed all their customers’ payment expectations.

“This partnership will help Accelerex to aggressively expand into Africa and accelerate product development. I see our vision becoming a reality with this move.”

Paul Kokoricha, Partner at ACA, stated that with the huge potential of Fintechs in Africa, good funding and strong expertise are crucial to scalability.

“Accelerex’s strong business model and its agile and dynamic management team make it the ideal African Fintech group to back. We are thrilled about this alliance and are happy to bring our experience to the board.”

Accelerex Holdings continuously develops and deploys convenient, secure and innovative financial and non-financial solutions that make life easier.

ACA is a leading pan-African investment firm, sponsoring funds and managing investments in Sub-Saharan Africa

Founded in 1997, ACA has an over 23-year history of investing across multiple market cycles, through five private equity and real estate funds.

Its international structure and strong local expertise enable it to raise funds from investors across the globe for investment in specific sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa.

CAPE IV is a $567m fund established by ACA to invest in companies with strong fundamentals and a growth track record in the financial services; technology, media and telecoms; FMCG; energy and various emerging sectors in West Africa.

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JUMO Breaks $2.5-Billion Disbursement Mark In Africa And Asia

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Andrew Watkins-Ball, Founder/Group CEO of JUMO

JUMO, a South African founded fintech startup has dispersed over $2.5-billion in credit across six markets in Africa and Asia. 

Andrew Watkins-Ball, Founder & Group CEO of JUMO, explained in a release that this achievement is the result of the fintech’s successful business model.

“The thing that makes me most proud of this milestone is not the amount in dollars; it’s the millions of customers that we have served. Behind each dollar is a human story of someone who has put that capital to work to grow their business.

“These people are the backbone of their families, their communities, and the lifeblood of emerging market economies.”

JUMO is a tech startup that has created a unique platform to help facilitate digital financial services such as credit, and savings in emerging markets was founded in 2014 by South African entrepreneur, Andrew Watkins-Ball.

Registered in Mauritius, the fintech startup has partnered with funders, banks, and telecommunications companies to create accessible financial tools.

Whereas JUMO has been creating accessible financial services to the unbanked populations in both Africa and Asia, its mobile wallet technology offers an easy-to-use service that is accessible via a mobile device.

The South African fintech startup has, in addition, provided multiple products and services including, loan services and insurance products, targeted at entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

Watkins-Ball further spoke on cost-effective technology used to collect information that strengthens the business model.

“When we founded JUMO, we were always clear that we can only achieve our mission by leveraging sophisticated information technologies at really low cost.

“The increase in our prediction capability decreases the cost of credit risk, allowing us to share more value with customers while driving sustainable returns for our bank partners,” Watkins-Ball said.

JUMO, which operates in Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, and Pakistan, plans to expand its offering and service to Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria.

“We’re optimistic about the possibilities in these markets and continue to see huge growth opportunities in Africa, with the potential to replicate our successes in other markets over the longer term,” he said.

 

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