World’s First Mobile Phone Virtual Card launched.

airtel Africa, Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard Worldwide today announced the launch of the world’s first virtual card that operates off a wallet residing on a mobile phone. This innovative payment method known as airtel 1time Shopping Card will offer communities the opportunity for greater participation in the financial system as they realize the substantial benefits of mobile commerce. This single use shopping card will soon be available in Kenya and rolled out to markets across Africa, subject to regulatory approvals.

The mobile technology platform and airtel’s vast consumer penetration combined with the financial structure and regulatory framework provided by Standard Chartered Bank and the global acceptance of MasterCard will ensure that consumers will be able to transact in a reliable, convenient and secure environment.

Speaking on the groundbreaking innovation, Manoj Kohli, airtel CEO (International) and Joint Managing Director, said “Today’s launch of the world’s first virtual number on a mobile card marks a big milestone in mobile commerce. The airtel 1time Shopping Card is proof that airtel will deliver innovative and relevant mobile solutions that will help consumers overcome the daily challenges in their lives. The solution will offer consumers a robust e-commerce solution that delivers security, accessibility, acceptance, ability and a global reach. Subsequent phases of the program will allow airtel subscribers to make payment across the MasterCard network.”

Airtel Africa customers in Kenya will soon be able to use their mobile phone to make online purchases from MasterCard merchants around the world. The simplified online transaction will work in the following way; each time an airtel customer is shopping online he or she will be able to request a single use shopping card number.  airtel money services will generate a special 16 digit number that enables the completion of the transaction. On completion of the transaction, a confirmation message will be sent to the consumer’s handset.   The single use feature of the airtel 1time Shopping Card provides the consumer with a convenient and secure online shopping experience.

“We are delighted with this unique strategic partnership with airtel and MasterCard Worldwide and are confident the airtel 1time Shopping Card will be the first of many such innovative products we will be able to roll out in the future”, said Standard Chartered’s Global Head for Cards & Personal Loans, TS Anil. “The launch of the airtel 1time Shopping Card should fundamentally change the payments industry not just in Africa, but also across the world.”

The global opportunity for mobile payments is large. The global unbanked population with mobile phones is expected to grow 70% over the next year to 1.7 billion people by 2012. The opportunity for mobile payments is especially significant in Africa, where there are close to 400 million mobile phone users (according to the Wireless Intelligence, 2008) and an unbanked population of 230 million (according to the Boston Consulting Group, The Next Billion Consumers, Agenda for Financial Inclusion, 2008) households.  By 2014, Africa is expected to see 56% mobile penetration (according to Gartner).

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