Mastercard has announced a new solution that it is hoped will help small businesses across Africa to benefit from the digital economy. The new feature will allow small businesses across Africa to accept touchless payments on their smartphones at no additional hardware costs.

Known as the “SME-in-a-Box”, the solution is powered by Mastercard’s payment technology and that of its Fintech partners, including payments and agency banking solutions company SmartPesa, a Mastercard StartPath partner. It is hoped that the solution will help smaller merchants across Africa to expand their customer base via digital platforms and enable sustainable revenue growth.

“The SME market represents 90% of businesses in MENA, and has been deeply impacted by the pandemic. We recognize the overwhelming pressure that small business owners are currently facing and are committed to supporting them through COVID-19 and beyond by bringing our tools at a low cost and rapid time to market. The SME in a Box offering provides SME owners with a quick and simple way to digitize their business and build a platform for sustained future growth,” said Gaurang Shah, Senior Vice President, Product Management, Digital Payments & Labs, Middle East, and Africa at Mastercard.

Increase in digital payments during COVID-19 pandemic

The announcement and offering by Mastercard does not come as a surprise given the current and ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Given the way that the virus spreads, human contact needs to be kept at a minimum, and this includes the handling of physical cash. As such, this has led to businesses looking at alternative methods to accept payments from customers.

Mastercard's SME in a Box offers a payment service that can run on smartphones and is powered by Mastercard Payment Gateway Services. It is said to also, through its Simplify Commerce offering, enable SMEs to have an online shopping feature with a plug-&-play e-commerce store builder with instant online checkout.

These touchless payments capabilities have been packaged as a bundled solution combined with special incentives to drive adoption and support business owners to tackle challenges during COVID-19.

Wide range of financial services for small businesses

Mastercard's offering is among many that will hopefully kick-start the digital transformation of many of Africa's small and medium businesses.

Added to the touchless payments and online shopping features, the offering also enables business owners to access a wide range of financial services quickly and easily through a single intuitive app compatible with all Android mobile devices. The app’s functionality supports contactless payments, QR code payments, and can generate e-payment links for remote payments.

“Historically, selling products and accepting payments via multiple channels, including in-store and online, was an advantage afforded only to large retailers. We hope that the SME in a Box solution gives smaller entrepreneurs across the region the confidence to expand their businesses and thrive in today’s fast-changing world,” said Barry Levett, Founder of SmartPesa.

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