How MasterCard Aims to Bring Financial Services to East Africa

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

There is no shortage of efforts to bring financial inclusion to those in developing economies who lack access to basic financial services. Most have failed for one very important reason – they’ve been unable to scale. The announcement last week of MasterCard’s partnership with The Gates Foundation will address that problem, starting with the launch of an Innovation Lab in the birthplace of the region’s most successful mobile money scheme – Kenya. MasterCard’s Executive Director of Public-Private Partnerships, Tara Nathan takes MPD CEO Karen Webster inside MasterCard’s plans to create, enable and scale financial solutions that will first impact the lives of the 100M people living in East Africa, and then the billions around the world who will be able to benefit from the foundation that they are creating.

KW: Your role at MasterCard is about developing partnerships with the international development community with a focus in particular on financial inclusion. The recent result of your work is a new innovation lab that you’ve opened in East Africa that has the potential to affect many millions of lives globally – 100 million, as was indicated in the announcement. There are a lot of things that I’d like to talk to you about today, starting with the location of the new lab, Kenya. Kenya is the birthplace of mPesa, which as we all know is one of the most successful mobile money initiatives of its kind. Is that why you chose Kenya?

TN: For us, first and foremost, our intention was to be located in the market of the people we seek to serve. MasterCard Labs as a principal tends to take a customer-centric approach to product development, starting with identifying the problem we need to solve and looking at the gap we’re trying to fill. In this case, we’re looking to innovate new solutions and services that serve the poor with a focus on East Africa.

TN: Secondly, Nairobi emerged as a great hub because of the great access it has to talent, but also, yes, the enabling payments environment.

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financial inclusion