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Visa connects Kenya’s Safaricom to global payments.

Kenya’s largest telecoms operator, Safaricom, has agreed to a deal with Visa, to connect its mobile phone-based M-Pesa financial services platform with Visa’s global network of merchants and cards.

This deal will enable M-Pesa to serve as a virtual card, allowing users to make payments overseas and let them transfer cash from their visa-linked debit cards to their M-Pesa wallet even when abroad. Safaricom (partly owned by South Africa’s Vodacom and Britain’s Vodafone) has already put M-Pesa on the map as a regional leader in mobile money but it looks like this has been the missing link M-Pesa needed to participate in the global payment ecosystem.

This is not the first attempt by Safaricom to integrate with a global payments system. Previous deals with Western Union back in 2018, as well as PayPal and Alipay, have so far remained relatively small.

It will be of interest to see if this collaboration, still subject to regulatory approval, will lead to the further development of e-commerce across Africa, especially if barriers to regional and global commerce are removed.

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