At Mobile World Congress, Mastercard announced that it will use Facebook Messenger to provide technology to small businesses in Africa and Asia to drive affordable acceptance of electronic and mobile payments.
Access to digital payments will help these businesses expand to new markets, and unlock financial services and products that enables them to grow their livelihoods.
This Messenger experience will launch in Nigeria, where Mastercard will pilot a new Masterpass QR bot to help business owners move beyond cash transactions to accepting QR payments. Ecobank and Zenith Bank will support this inaugural program. The pilot in Nigeria is the beginning of a larger plan by the two companies to include more businesses into the digital economy.
According to research done by The Fletcher School and Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, of the $301 billion of funds flows from consumers to businesses in Nigeria, 98 percent is still based on cash.
“Every business owner is looking for ways to increase sales and draw new customers into their stores. By offering QR-based digital payments, smaller retailers can achieve these goals and create greater customer stickiness with little to no investment beyond the phone they already have,” said Jorn Lambert, executive vice president, Digital Channels and Regions, Mastercard. “Masterpass QR opens up new commerce channels for these merchants and enables them to create auditable transaction records. These advances open doors to other financial tools and products such as loans to drive added business growth.”
To get started, businesses can send a request to the bot to enable QR payments, receive approval from the bank, set up an account and start accepting digital payments in a fast, simple and secure manner. Once the account set up process is complete, business owners can print and display the QR code in their stores or save the code on their phones. Customers can pay by either scanning the code from their smartphone or by entering the merchant ID associated with the QR code into their feature phone.
“Brands and developers around the world are turning to messaging to connect with the 1.3 billion people who use Messenger each month,” said Kahina Van Dyke, director of Payments and Financial Services Partnerships at Facebook. “We are pleased that Mastercard is developing a service on the Messenger Platform to help small merchants use messaging to manage their business and connect with their customers.”
Launched in 2016, Masterpass QR provides people with any type of mobile phone the ability to safely accept and make in-person purchases without cash or a plastic card. It provides greater choice in payments and complements Mastercard’s investment in contactless payments to provide merchants of all sizes – from international chains to individual shop owners and street vendors – a fast, secure and inexpensive way to accept payments.
Time for smart energy
South Africa is experiencing an energy crisis that requires the public and private sectors, along with households to work together. Fundamental to this is embracing innovative technology that provides more efficient ways of managing the country’s energy.
Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa, said: “With the number of connected devices expected to top more than 75 billion worldwide by 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) can be considered an important tool in reaching this goal. Already, connected devices can be used to deliver smart energy that sees a more optimal use of resources.”
This approach relies on a smart grid of connected sensors pointing to areas where energy is wasted. In turn, the supply to these points can be allocated to higher priority areas resulting in a better use of resources.
Aiding this drive towards connected devices is government pushing towards the establishment of smart cities. These cities require a technological infrastructure built around various sensors connected to the internet to not only generate data, but control things as diverse as traffic lights, street lamps, and other electrical devices.
Graham said: “These smart cities enable lighting to be automatically switched off when not needed. Sensors on the connected devices will detect when people are on the street and turn it off or on accordingly. What might seem like a novelty, can make a massive difference in reducing energy waste.”
According to Kate Stubbs, director of business development and marketing at Interwaste, IoT is just part of how technology can be used to create a more efficient environment.
“South Africa produces an average 108 million tonnes of waste annually,” said Stubbs. “Of this, only 10 percent is recycled. There is significant potential to use this waste and convert it to energy. This is more than just the traditional way of viewing recycling. Instead, it is using technology to extract value out of waste through initiatives like refuse and waste-derived fuel.”
The first South African Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant was launched in 2016 and not only aims to reduce landfill, but also the country’s carbon footprint. As the name suggests, the plant converts general, industrial, and municipal waste into an alternative fuel that is used in the cement industry.
Stubbs said: “Spin-off benefits of this plant includes the creation of additional employment opportunities and a reduction of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. Waste management entails so much more than what many people think. But the key remains a combination of technology innovation and a willingness to use the resources generated by this.”
Graham agrees about the need to readily accept the innovation technology brings as the country is teetering on a significant energy disaster.
He said: “New technologies are critical in helping the countries and their cities of the future promote sustainable energy use. For example, Nairobi has introduced smart street lamps that use LED lighting saving money and resources on energy costs. These lamp poles also have Wi-Fi embedded in them that sees air quality probe sensors submitted vital data for city planners on where there are pollution hotspots.”
Stubbs feels these are good examples of how energy management approaches in the connected world need to be non-linear.
“The traditional ways of adopting technology, recycling, and managing energy must be seen as relics of the past,” she said. “Instead, we must all work together and readily embrace modern solutions or risk our country entering a new dark ages.”
Girls4Tech aims to cut gender gap in AI and security
Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are two of the hottest technology fields today, with job opportunities continuing to grow across both. However, worldwide, women make up less than 15 percent of the professionals in these high-tech jobs, and only one in 20 girls opts for a career based in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
To help narrow the gender gap, Mastercard has been cultivating young technology enthusiasts as part of its signature education platform, Girls4Tech. Currently in its fifth year, this hands-on, inquiry-based STEM programme has reached more than 400,000 girls (ages 8-12) in 25 countries, more than doubling its established 2017 goal. Girls4Tech was first launched in the South Africa in 2017, and has seen numerous Mastercard employees acting as mentors to local students ever since. As Mastercard marks the fifth anniversary of the programme, the company builds on a successful track record of impact with an even more ambitious commitment to reach 1 million girls by 2025.
Mastercard created Girls4Tech in April 2014 to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers through a fun, engaging curriculum built around global science and mathematics’ standards. The programme incorporates Mastercard’s deep expertise in payments technology and innovation, and includes topics such as encryption, fraud detection, data analysis and digital convergence.
“Driving inclusion, equal opportunity, and women’s empowerment are key priorities at Mastercard. Investing in a more inclusive future is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. Women are the driving force behind global economic growth, and their contributions will continue to elevate communities and society as a whole,” says Beatrice Cornacchia, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa at Mastercard. “Through our Girls4Tech programme, we’re extending our commitment to the next generation of women leaders and developing a strong pipeline of talent by encouraging girls to embrace the subjects that will prepare them for the workforce of tomorrow.”
New Curriculum Unveiled
As technology skills continue to evolve, the Girls4Tech programme is launching a new curriculum to give girls deeper exposure to the growing fields of cybersecurity and AI.
Furthermore, to continue the engagement with girls who have already participated in the programme, Mastercard is launching Girls4Tech 2.0. Designed for older students, ages 13-16, the new programme aims to keep girls excited about STEM throughout the critical high school years and also emphasises important 21st century skills – such as collaboration, creativity and communication – as they work in teams to apply their technical knowledge to solve real-world challenges.
Impact Highlights from the First Five Years
- To date, Girls4Tech has reached over 400,000 girls, with events in 25 countries and six continents.
- The programme has engaged more than 3,800 employee mentors worldwide.
- Mastercard has created partnerships with Scholastic, Be Better China, Singapore Committee for UN Women, Major League Baseball, R&A, and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to further scale the programme and offer STEM skills in unique ways to girls ages 8-12.
- The programme has achieved global reach with the curriculum translated into 12 languages.
To learn more about the programme, please visit the Girls4Tech webpage.
 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity
 U.S. Department of Commerce, Women in STEM 2017 Update; World Economic Forum, Gender Parity and Human Capital Report 2017