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UL Collaborates With WIZZIT Digital to Advance Retail Payments in Sub-Saharan Africa

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UL, the global safety science leader, has announced the completion of a pilot project with WIZZIT Digital to launch Tap2Pay SoftPOS solution with personal identification number (PIN) entry support.

This solution transforms commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices into point-of-sale (POS) payment terminals. Tap2Pay is the first SoftPOS solution developed in South Africa that supports PIN entry and is recognized by Visa and Mastercard. Since debuting the solution, WIZZIT Digital has gone live with an initial launch customer, one of the largest Pan-African commercial banks.

To navigate the complexities of bringing a SoftPOS solution to market, UL supported the Tap2Pay solution from development to marketplace entry. In the initial stages, UL provided advisory services to help WIZZIT Digital navigate the payments regulatory landscape and meet the payment schemes’ requirements. When Tap2Pay was ready for functional testing, UL tested it with a range of scheme-accredited tools to provide feedback on potential issues. Following debugging and troubleshooting, UL provided functional testing services and helped WIZZIT Digital gain Visa pilot type approval. After functional approval, UL’s security labs evaluated the solution for Mastercard’s and Visa’s security pilot programs. These tests and evaluations against scheme requirements allowed WIZZIT to bring the solution to market.

UL evaluation confirmed the Tap2Pay solution entered the marketplace, meeting key security requirements. This included ensuring the security of payment data obtained through a near-field communications (NFC) interface and a contactless kernel of the COTS device. The solution’s security mechanisms, controls and mitigations protect the consumer’s account data and other assets. The solution is compatible with a wide range of Android devices.

Explaining how Tap2Pay addresses an unmet market need, Brian Richardson, CEO and co-founder of WIZZIT Digital, said, “For almost two decades, we have been working with banks and financial institutions in emerging markets, including many countries in Africa. Our experience has taught us two things. Firstly, consumers and banks want the protection of a PIN when conducting contactless transactions. With cyberfraud on the rise, a PIN offers a universally accepted layer of security that people trust. Secondly, traditional cashless payment solutions are too expensive for micro and small merchants.

“For smaller merchants, the initial investment in terminals and the ongoing maintenance costs are simply too high. Tap2Pay SoftPos with PIN removes this barrier, enabling merchants of any size to accept cashless payments. This will ultimately help them attract more customers, including those who don’t want to pay cash for goods and services, for a fraction of the cost,” said Richardson.

Tap2Pay enters the market at a time when demand for contactless payment solutions is increasing. According to Deloitte, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for digitizing payments more critical than ever. However, many emerging markets are facing card acceptance challenges. For example, in South Africa, approximately 90% of the 100,000 nationwide shops in the informal sector only accept cash. To meet customer demand and increase card acceptance by the smaller business market, including merchants in rural areas, needs an affordable solution.

Jako Fritz, principal security adviser at UL, said, “SOFTPOS is an entirely new approach to digital payments lowering the barrier of entry for merchants to accept contactless card transactions. Cloud computing, as well as the Europay, MasterCard, and Visa protocol, allows the shift from traditional physically secure POS to software-based COTS transaction processing. These solutions will help micro and small business owners and merchants around the world meet the demands of an increasingly cashless society more securely with minimal investment.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Visa To Acquire Swedish Open Banking Firm Tink For €1.8B

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Visa Inc

Card giant firm, Visa is set to acquire Tink, the Swedish open banking platform, in a deal worth €1.8 billion (roughly $2.15 billion).

The news comes less than six months after the termination of Visa’s planned $5.3 billion acquisition of Plaid, the San Francisco-based fintech firm – a deal that had encountered significant opposition from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Like Plaid, Tink’s platform allows customers to connect with more than 3,400 banks and financial institutions to access aggregated financial data, helping them to build innovative personal finance tools.

“Visa is committed to doing all we can to foster innovation and empower consumers in support of Europe’s open banking goals,” said Al Kelly, CEO and chairman of Visa. “By bringing together Visa’s network of networks and Tink’s open banking capabilities we will deliver increased value to European consumers and businesses with tools to make their financial lives more simple, reliable and secure.”

As part of the Visa deal, Tink will retain its brand and current management team, as well as its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden.

Tink last raised money in December 2020, when it secured €85 million (roughly $101.5 million) in a round led by Dawn Capital and Eurazeo Growth.

The €1.8 billion transactions, which includes cash and retention incentives, are subject to approval from regulators. Visa will fund the transaction in cash.

Tink’s business model is in part enabled by the EU’s Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which was put into effect in January 2018. The legislation requires banks to give third parties access to the customer data they store, with the aim of driving competition and innovation in financial services.

But the PSD2 framework also paved the way for new payment functionality that allows consumers to make payments directly from their bank accounts without having to rely on intermediaries, like card networks.

In recent months, account-to-account payments have garnered a lot of attention from crypto startups, which see it as a potentially cheaper and easier method of funding wallets.

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Bank CEO Speaks to Cultural Change Required as Economy Moves Toward Digitization and CBDCs

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Last month, the Kenya Bankers Association had their regular CEO Chat, this time with Alakh Kohli, CEO of M Oriental Bank. During the exchange, he was questioned about the move towards digital products and services, which would include cryptocurrencies, digital assets, and central bank digital currencies. He noted that there was a significant educational component to the change, and that while many in the economy were already participating in it, a greater cultural shift would need to occur as we trend towards digitization.

“Kohli is certainly right, in terms of the need to create cultural change as our financial system further digitizes. There is a sizable segment of the population in every country which prefers in-person transactions. That is exacerbated by the threat of hacking and identity theft, particularly among the eldest in our societies. In places like Africa, that is even more pronounced because of lesser access to digital devices,” noted Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges.

In the interview, Kohli noted that “one of the challenges we are seeing is that while there is a lot of interest and focus on getting digital products, there are always a group of clients that still prefer to do their transactions physically…one of the biggest challenges we face is introducing such clients to digital banking and encouraging the uptake of these products for such clients. We have done this through one on one sensitization and educative trainings and discussions with our clients. It speaks to a culture change which is required.”

“As we begin to see governments move towards CBDCs, and we will, there will be a necessary shift in cultural preferences. Older citizens and those without access to smartphones may find themselves outside the mainstream as central banks issue digital currencies. Even during the pandemic, when areas found themselves with a coin shortage, some businesses discouraged — or even stopped accepting — cash. Governments will favor the digitized currency for the many advantages it will provide, not the least of which will be a less expensive and more centralized financial infrastructure. The citizenry will likely find significant benefit, as well. For example, imagine how much faster stimulus payments, in places where they were issued, would’ve been processed if there was already a CBDC in place,” said Gardner.

Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

“While there will be a cultural and educational aspect to any CBDC rollout, I think that the populace will, by and large, enjoy the benefits of digital assets. Even beyond central bank digital currencies, the ability to participate in digital assets will be huge. For example, the ability to chop up real estate investments into small chunks will allow Main Street investors an inexpensive way to own a piece of a strip mall or multifamily development in a much more liquid fashion than any investment vehicle currently available. That’s the technological power of blockchain,” explained Gardner.

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Lack of Digital Infrastructure and Mobile Services Affecting Remittance Risks Leaving Millions of Rural Families in Poverty – IFAD

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International Day of Family Remittance- Investors King

Despite a massive increase in migrants sending money home via digital transfers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of their rural family members struggle to access mobile banking services which could help lift them out of poverty.

The President of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has called for urgent investments in digital infrastructure and mobile services in developing countries to ensure rural families are not left behind.

“Migrants have shown their continued commitment to their families and communities during the pandemic with more remittances transfers made digitally than ever before,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, speaking on the International Day of Family Remittances. “Unfortunately, families in rural and remote areas – where remittances are a true lifeline – the battle to access cash outlets or even more convenient alternatives such as mobile money accounts. Governments and the private sector need to urgently invest in rural digital infrastructure to address this.”

Mobile remittances increased by 65 percent last year, rising to US$12.7 billion. This change was driven by a switch from cash due to lockdowns that limited informal channels and social distancing rules for senders and recipients alike. In spite of the global economic recession due to the pandemic, migrants continued to send money home to their families, with remittances in 2020 reaching $540 billion – a drop of only 1.6 percent compared to the previous year.

However, in many countries, people living in remote rural areas have sparse local access to banking services or limited mobile connectivity. In addition, there is limited availability of agents offering mobile money services such as payouts in cash. Often mobile money service providers are only located in urban centers. This means millions of poor, rural people have to travel long distances to towns or cities, often at significant cost, to receive the cash sent digitally by their migrant family members.

Digital transfers are cheaper than traditional cash transfers, and mobile banking services also provide the opportunity for migrants and their families in their countries of origin to access useful and affordable financial products to better manage their finances, including savings, loans and insurance.

Across the globe, 200 million migrants regularly send money to their 800 million relatives. This plays a crucial role in their lives and livelihoods. Almost half of these families live in rural areas of developing countries, where poverty and hunger are highest. Families use the funds sent by migrant workers to cover basic household needs such as food, housing, school and medical bills, as well as to start small businesses. These resources can often transform both families and local communities.

“While the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital transfers and mobile money accounts, it also highlighted pervasive gender inequality,” said Pedro de Vasconcelos, the head of IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances. “Research shows that women are 33 percent less likely than men to have a mobile money account. We must focus on closing the gap by addressing the barriers that prevent women from accessing and using mobile financial services.”

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