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Airtel Africa, Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard Launch World’s First Virtual Card on Mobile Phone

Customers in Africa can leapfrog conventional payment methods and benefit from greater financial access

  • ● Innovation gives global acceptance of Airtel's money mobile commerce solution and transforms it from a closed loop to an open system

Nairobi, February 2, 2011 : 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 Wireless Intelligence, 2008 and an unbanked population of 230 million Boston Consulting Group, The Next Billion Consumers, Agenda for Financial Inclusion, 2008 households. By 2014, Africa is expected to see 56% mobile penetration Gartner .

"As a leading international bank in Africa and Kenya, we are always looking for ways to bring innovative financial solutions to our customers in line with our brand promise ‘Here for good’,” said Kariuki Ngari, GM and Cluster Head – Consumer Banking, Kenya & East Africa, Standard Chartered. ”We have been in Kenya for 100 years and have always been at the forefront of introducing new products and services to the market. The virtual card is a unique way of ensuring that our customers can transact in the digital world for the first time without having to carry a piece of plastic."

"We continue to deliver new ways to enhance people’s lives and introduce convenient and secure tools to consumers across the world. Powered by MasterCard in Control technology the Airtel 1time Shopping Card will enable more consumers to connect to the global marketplace via their mobile phones. Whether located in urban or rural communities, people will be able to participate in commerce from their hometown to anywhere in the world,” said Michael Miebach, Division President, Middle East and Africa, MasterCard Worldwide. “We see mobile payments as an innovative way to let consumers quickly and securely purchase their favorite items in this connected world. These innovations at MasterCard also provide governments and other participants in the economy with a platform for financial inclusion."

About Airtel in Africa

Airtel is the new brand name for the 16 Zain operations across Africa which were acquired by Airtel International in June 2010. Airtel is driven by the vision of providing affordable and innovative mobile services to all. Airtel has African operations in: Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Airtel International is a Bharti Airtel company. For more information, please visit

About Standard Chartered Bank

Standard Chartered PLC is a leading international bank, listed on the London, Hong Kong and Mumbai stock exchanges. It has operated for over 150 years in some of the world's most dynamic markets and earns more than 90 per cent of its income and profits in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This geographic focus and commitment to developing deep relationships with clients and customers has driven the Bank’s growth in recent years.

With 1,700 offices in 70 markets, Standard Chartered offers exciting and challenging international career opportunities for more than 80,000 staff. It is committed to building a sustainable business over the long term and is trusted worldwide for upholding high standards of corporate governance, social responsibility, environmental protection and employee diversity. The Bank’s heritage and values are expressed in its brand promise, ‘Here for good’.

About MasterCard Worldwide : As a leading global payments company, MasterCard Worldwide prides itself on being at the heart of commerce, helping to make life easier and more efficient for everyone, everywhere. MasterCard serves as a franchisor, processor and advisor to the payments industry, and makes commerce happen by providing a critical economic link among financial institutions, governments, businesses, merchants, and cardholders worldwide. In 2009, $2.5 trillion in gross dollar volume was generated on its products by consumers around the world. Powered by the MasterCard Worldwide Network – the fastest payment processing network in the world – MasterCard processes over 22 billion transactions each year, has the capacity to handle 140 million transactions per hour, with an average network response time of 140 milliseconds and with 99.99 percent reliability. MasterCard advances global commerce through its family of brands, including MasterCard®, Maestro®, and Cirrus®; its suite of core products such as credit, debit, and prepaid; and its innovative platforms and functionalities, such as MasterCard PayPass™ and MasterCard inControl™. MasterCard serves consumers, governments, and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. For more information, please visit us at Follow us on Twitter: @mastercardnews.