M-PESA, the mobile phone-based African money transfer service owned by Kenya’s Safaricom and Visa launched a virtual payment card on Thursday in a bid to capture some of the continent’s $40bn-a-year subscriptions market.
The M-Pesa Global Pay Visa Virtual card will allow users to securely pay 100 million foreign merchants like Amazon and Alibaba from their mobile phones, without the need for credit cards or accounts with processors such as PayPal.
The virtual card is also targeted at the fast-growing subscriptions markets in Africa for services like Netflix and Spotify, said M-Pesa Africa Managing Director Sitoyo Lopokoiyit.
The virtual card is initially available to more than 30 million M-Pesa users in Kenya and will be rolled out to Tanzania, where testing is going on, Mozambique, Congo, Lesotho and Ghana by April 2023, Lopokoiyit said.
M-Pesa launched 15 years ago as a simple money transfer service and now accounts for roughly half of Safaricom’s revenue as consumers use it for purchases, savings, borrowing and insurance. Safaricom is partly owned by South Africa’s Vodacom Group.
‘A lot of M-Pesa customers today don’t have bank accounts… it (the virtual card) is a catalyst for e-commerce and digital payments,’ said Visa official Alex McCrea.
Transactions will be subject to the M-Pesa platform’s limits in the local Kenyan currency of KSh150,000 ($1,285) for a single transaction and a daily limit double that. Users will be able to use the virtual card while travelling abroad.
Transactions on the virtual card will be secured with a unique security code sent to the user’s mobile phone and the user’s M-Pesa personal identification number.