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MasterCard Unveils Innovation Lab In East Africa For Digital Financial Services

by Caroline Vutagwa
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MasterCard has launched MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion so as to impact more than 1000 million people by developing practical and cost-effective tools that expand access and help build stable futures over the long term.

The card company will grant a total of $11 million for over three years form Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The lab will generate new ideas with local entrepreneurs, governments and other stakeholders across East Africa, and rapidly move from concept to reality. The grant enables MasterCard to reach into these new markets that may otherwise be  not commercially viable.

“Too many people lack access to the most basic financial services, leaving them trapped in a cash economy that imposes greater risks and costs on those least able to afford them,” said Ajay Banga, president and CEO at MasterCard. “Through the investment made by the Gates Foundation, coupled with our strong innovation processes, MasterCard will create and scale financial services that open up a world of inclusion and help people build better, brighter futures.”

The new lab will be part of MasterCard Labs, MasterCard’s global Research and Development division that focuses on the evolution of technological and consumer trends and has created hundreds of prototypes over the last several years in a variety of areas from payment acceptance to authentication to P2P payments.

The agreement between MasterCard and the foundation reserves an additional $8 million for ideas that evolve to the incubation stage, to give each start up the best possible chance of reaching commercialization at scale and becoming a vital part of a new economy.

MasterCard will manage the MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion in a manner that ensures Global Access. This ensures that the results stemming from the lab have true benefits for poor people with the widest possible application and the capacity to extend solutions regionally and possibly globally.

The work done at the Labs will lead to new products and services that leverage existing and new infrastructures, including those that are not specific to MasterCard.

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