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Mastercard announced today that it has launched Fintech Express in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), a programme designed to facilitate emerging fintechs’ launch and expansion.

Leveraging the power of partnerships and Mastercard’s expertise, technology, and global network, startups will now be able to focus on innovation that drives the digital economy.

Mastercard Fintech Express is designed for all types of fintechs: established fintechs wanting a direct license from Mastercard as well as fintechs with the ambition to innovate through collaborating with ready-to-go Mastercard Engage partners. As such, the programme is split into three core modules: Access, Build, Connect.

How it works

Mastercard says Access enables regulated entities to obtain a Mastercard License and access Mastercard’s network through a streamlined onboarding process. Build enables Fintechs, as Processors/Enablers, to become an Express Partner by building unique tech alliances and benefitting from all the advantages that Mastercard provides.

Connect is for Fintechs/Startups looking to add payment solutions to their suite of products,  can easily connect with qualified Express Partners available on the Mastercard Engage web portal, and go live with Mastercard in a matter of days.

The programme supports digital payment innovators by making it simple to collaborate with Mastercard and its partners to launch new fintech products, says Mastercard. It is designed for fintechs looking to add payment solutions to their suite of products, tech-savvy startups looking at serving a new segment as well as established players with ambitions to innovate through partnerships.

The benefits

Becoming an Express Partner helps brands simplify the launch of payment solutions, shortening the process from a few months to a matter of days. Express Partners will also enjoy all the benefits of becoming a qualified Engage Partner, Mastercards says.

“Startups are forming exciting and diverse new collaborations with traditional financial institutions, thereby enhancing competitiveness while also bringing a host of new services and products to market. Mastercard is playing a central role in making these fintech partnerships a reality as their technology provider of choice. Technological advancement and innovation are steering the digital financial services industry as fintech players are becoming globally mainstream and an increasing influx of these players are competing with large traditional players.

With today’s announcement, we are taking the next step in further empowering them to fulfil their ambitions of scale and speed,” said Gaurang Shah,'s Mastercard.Senior Vice President, Digital Payments & Labs, Middle East and Africa.

Shah adds that in Africa, fintech startup funding is one of the most active business investments and Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya represent the lion’s share. An example is of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) that established a fintech unit to monitor the impact of new technology developments on the traditional banking sector.

Early adopters are flying high

Mastercards notes that some of the early players to have joined forces and created alliances under the new Express Partner programme in South Africa include Ukheshe and Nedbank.

“Partnering with Mastercard on the Fintech Express programme has enabled us to rapidly access and integrate Mastercard’s digital product offerings into our end customer solutions. This coupled with Mastercard’s reach has seen our business increase on a global scale,” said Clayton Hayward, CEO from Ukheshe.

“Payments are a critical part of everybody’s life and enabling customers to perform any transaction seamlessly across multiple channels is a winning formula. Partnerships between banks and fintech firms are critical to delivering this, and at Nedbank, we not only believe in these partnerships but in the very essence of shared business models to extend our delivery capability,” said Chipo Mushwana, Executive of Emerging Payments at Nedbank.

She further explained: “Our partnership with Ukheshe has enabled us to respond to a specific set of customer needs, driving cost synergy to fast-track competitiveness, and advancing revenue synergy to accelerate new opportunities. The Mastercard Accelerate platform further provides an access point for us to engage with startups that are competent and meet the compliance requirements to work with financial institutions.”

Other players across Middle East and Africa include Network International, Diamond Trust Bank, DPO Group, Selcom and Tutuka.

Mastercard Fintech Express falls under the umbrella of Mastercard Accelerate – Mastercard’s overarching fintech platform that gives start-ups and emerging brands support and assistance for every stage of their growth and transformation, from market entry to global expansion. Mastercard Accelerate is comprised of four main programmes: Fintech Express, Start Path, Engage and Developers.

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