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Long-standing partners, Mastercard and Uber extend their partnership to boost payment digitization and advance financial inclusion across the Middle East and Africa

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Uber’s long-term partnership with Mastercard continues to grow with a new strategic initiative focusing on digital payments and advancing financial inclusions which will be facilitated by Mastercard across the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

As a regional first, the partnership with Mastercard will enable Uber to drive digitization across their business operations, leveraging Mastercard’s single infrastructure to meet all types of payment needs for Uber Rides and Uber for Business.

It is intended that the partnership will boost cashless payments, drive digital payment acceptance, reward loyalty, while supporting Uber’s continued social impact collaboration.

The Economy 2021 report released by Mastercard notes that the economic impact of COVID-19 has introduced permanent changes in digital consumer spending habits, growth of online banking, fintech disruption and opportunities to boost financial inclusion.

Through the partnership, both companies can bridge the financial inclusion gap through a broad range of efforts.

Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President Market Development, Mastercard, MEA explains: “Mastercard continues to partner with digital players across the value chain to build a more connected world. Enabling secure, immediate movement of money for individuals in the gig economy workers and customers is especially vital as we support economic recovery efforts. Through our growing partnership, we are enabling the company’s long-term business growth as a result of improved operational efficiencies, driving greater financial inclusion and innovation across the region, and ultimately boosting the growth of digital economy in MEA.”

Abdellatif Waked, Regional General Manager, Middle East & Africa, said: “This is the largest partnership for us across MEA, and we are proud to be working together to bring key financial solutions to driver-partners across MEA. Driver’s well-being is a top priority and putting opportunities they want within reach is important to us.”

This new partnership builds on existing work between the two organizations. In a joint initiative last year, Mastercard committed 120,000 free trips and meals to those supporting communities across the Middle East and Africa, which was facilitated through Uber. This strategic partnership between Mastercard and Uber spans across the region and through key partnerships, supported cities, hospitals, front line workers and marginalized communities with free rides and meals.

While vaccines are a reality, communities are still in need of various support. Mastercard and Uber remain committed to helping people around the world navigate these challenging times and stand ready to support cities whether it be logistics or free rides.

The work undertaken with Uber plays a key role in advancing Mastercard’s worldwide commitment to financial inclusion and the company’s pledge to bring a total of 1 billion people, 50 million micro and small businesses, and 25 million women entrepreneurs into the digital economy by 2025.

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Visa and Mastercard Face Setback as Judge Indicates Likely Rejection of $30 Billion Deal

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Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are facing a potential setback as a federal judge in Brooklyn indicated she is likely to reject their $30 billion settlement with retailers.

The deal, aimed at capping credit-card swipe fees, has been a focal point of contention between the card giants and merchants for years.

Judge Margo Brodie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York expressed skepticism about the settlement during a hearing on Thursday.

According to court records, Judge Brodie suggested she might not approve the agreement, stating she would issue a written decision in the coming days.

Retailers have long campaigned to reduce their share of the costs associated with accepting card payments, known as interchange fees.

These fees, which are partially passed on to banks that issue the cards, including major institutions like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., have been a burden for many merchants.

Announced in March and pending court approval, the settlement was designed to allow merchants to charge consumers extra for transactions involving Visa or Mastercard credit cards.

The agreement also aimed to introduce pricing tactics to steer consumers towards lower-cost cards.

“The court’s comments strongly suggest that she won’t accept the settlement,” noted Justin Teresi, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “While Judge Brodie doesn’t seem convinced that larger retailers should be allowed to opt out from the settlement, provisions like changes to digital wallet acceptance rules and some state bans on surcharges likely present real adequacy issues.”

Both Visa and Mastercard expressed disappointment over the developments. A Mastercard representative stated, “We believe the settlement presented a fair resolution of this long-standing dispute, most notably by giving business owners more flexibility in how they manage their card acceptance activities. We will pursue our options to ensure a proper resolution of this matter.”

Visa’s spokesperson echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that “continued engagement between industry and the merchants is the best way forward.”

Swipe fees have become a substantial financial issue for retailers, totaling more than $160 billion last year, according to the Merchants Payments Coalition. Reactions to the settlement were mixed when it was announced, with some retail coalitions pledging a thorough review and others quickly opposing it.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, representing large merchants such as Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc., described the settlement as a “mere drop in the bucket” and urged careful review to assess if it adequately addresses the harm inflicted on retailers.

Doug Kantor, general counsel for the National Association of Convenience Stores, praised the judge’s remarks, stating, “We’re gratified to see that the court recognized how bad this settlement was.”

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African Fintech Kuda Raises $100M Despite Investment Challenges

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Kuda Microfinance Bank - Investors King

Kuda Technologies, a leading fintech company with operations in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, has successfully raised nearly $100 million in funding over the past five years.

This significant milestone was revealed by the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Babs Ogundeyi, during a panel session at the GITEX Africa conference in Morocco.

The GITEX Africa 2024 technology fair, which runs from May 29 to 31 in Marrakech, brings together over 1,500 exhibitors from 130 countries and nearly 700 startups.

During the event, Ogundeyi highlighted Kuda’s growth journey and the difficulties African fintech startups face in attracting foreign investment.

“We launched in Nigeria in August 2019 and have raised close to $100 million within that period,” Ogundeyi announced during the panel session titled “Beyond the Starting Lane: Navigating Advanced Funding.”

The session also featured prominent figures such as Sacha Michaud, co-founder of Glovo in Spain; Yassine Oussaifi, partner at Africinvest Tunisia; and Katlego Maphai, CEO of Yoco South Africa.

The discussion centered on the challenges and strategies for securing advanced funding for startups.

Ogundeyi emphasized that African startups often struggle to secure foreign investment due to investors’ unfamiliarity with the local market environment.

To mitigate this, Kuda Technologies established its headquarters in the UK, facilitating easier access to funding from Western investors.

“We are headquartered in the UK, but we are Africa-focused, and there is a reason why we are headquartered in the UK. It’s very much related to access to funding. The capital comes primarily from the west. It’s easier to attract capital in those jurisdictions,” Ogundeyi explained.

He stressed that securing funding is a rigorous process, particularly in Africa, where trust levels are low.

“When we raised our seed funding, the majority of investors had not been to Africa before, making it difficult to connect with something they didn’t understand. It goes beyond investors seeing the numbers or potential; if you don’t have a feel for the environment or understand the psyche of the people, it becomes very difficult to connect resources to that region,” Ogundeyi elaborated.

Despite the challenges, Kuda Technologies has made significant strides. Its subsidiary, Kuda Microfinance Bank in Nigeria, has grown its customer base to 7.5 million users, making it one of the largest fintech companies in Africa.

The company’s expansion strategy includes obtaining licenses in Canada and Tanzania, reflecting its vision of global reach.

Ogundeyi’s insights were echoed by Sacha Michaud, who noted that venture capitalists tend to invest in regions where they feel comfortable.

“We launched in Africa six years ago and were in high funding mode. In every funding round, we had to convince our investors why we were focusing on the region when we could invest our resources in higher-return areas like Europe,” Michaud shared.

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Flutterwave Hit by Another Security Breach, Billions of Naira Diverted to Multiple Bank Accounts

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In another blow to the financial technology sector, Flutterwave, a prominent player in Nigeria’s digital payment landscape, has been rocked by yet another security breach, resulting in the diversion of billions of naira to multiple undisclosed bank accounts.

This incident is the latest in a series of setbacks for the fintech company, raising concerns about the integrity of its systems and the safety of customer funds.

According to insider sources familiar with the matter, unauthorized transactions amounting to approximately ₦11 billion ($7 million) were illicitly transferred to several accounts during April 2024.

However, other sources suggest the figure could be as high as ₦20 billion ($13.5 million), underscoring the magnitude of the breach.

Flutterwave, responding to inquiries regarding the breach, acknowledged the unauthorized activities but stopped short of confirming the exact amount involved.

In a statement to TechCabal, the company assured the public that no customer funds were lost or compromised, and the confidentiality of customer data remained intact.

The modus operandi of the perpetrators involved transferring the stolen funds to various accounts across five financial institutions over a span of four days.

To evade detection, the transactions were carefully orchestrated to stay below thresholds that trigger fraud checks, highlighting the sophistication of the operation.

Law enforcement agencies have been notified of the breach, and investigations are underway to apprehend those responsible.

Flutterwave has also initiated measures to mitigate the impact of the incident, including temporarily restricting the accounts implicated in the unauthorized transfers.

Industry analysts note that this is not the first time Flutterwave has fallen victim to such security breaches. Over the past fourteen months, the company has grappled with multiple incidents of unauthorized transfers, raising serious concerns about the adequacy of its cybersecurity measures.

In October 2023, Flutterwave reported unauthorized transactions totaling ₦19 billion ($24 million), affecting thousands of account holders across 35 banks and financial institutions.

Subsequent breaches in March and February 2023 saw millions of naira diverted to numerous bank accounts, further exposing vulnerabilities in the company’s systems.

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