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Partners insert card to open gate

Updated: 2014-08-08 07:22
By Li Lianxing ( China Daily Africa)

Partners insert card to open gate

By partnering with Cim Group in Mauritius, UnionPay has set a milestone in expanding into the African market. Provided to China Daily

Cim group becomes first African organization to be offered unionpay service

Cim Group, the Mauritius-based financial services organization, has become the first bank in Africa to offer credit cards backed by UnionPay, China's only domestic bank card organization.

Officials says three levels of credit card are being offered to Cim customers - Classic, Gold and Business - to allow Mauritian visitors better payment options in China, but also business visitors from the east African island nation to have improved financial access into the fastest growing consumer market in the world.

UnionPay has more than 4.3 billion cards in circulation and has expanded its network to 140 countries, issuing its own bank cards in more than 30.

Partners insert card to open gate

Its payment cards are already accepted in more than 40 countries and regions of Africa, including South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya.

Given nearly half of the continent's population remains outside the banking system, possessing no bank cards, UnionPay thinks Africa offers huge potential for the organization.

A statement from Cim Group says China is one of Mauritius' biggest trading partners and sources of development funds, and there has been a steady increase over the years of business relations and tourism between the two countries.

The number of Chinese tourists going to the island has increased exponentially over the years, reaching 42,000 arrivals in 2013, it added.

That growth is set to continue, as shown by the 93.4 percent increase of arrivals during the first quarter of 2014, in the wake of the opening of the new air link weekly between the city of Shenzhen in southern China and the island's Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam airport, it says.

A growing number of African banks are enjoying the influence and potential of bilateral business and trade between China and Africa, and have requested collaboration with UnionPay to attract more clients.

According to Larry Wang, chief business development officer of UnionPay International, the three new products are the first UnionPay credit cards issued by UnionPay in Africa, and have enriched the UnionPay card products in the local market.

"Cardholders can use the cards in more than 140 countries and regions around the world, including Mauritius and China," he says. "In the Chinese mainland, the cards can be accepted by all ATMs and POS terminals and will be debited in Mauritius when used for purchases; in Mauritius and other countries and regions, the cards can be used for purchases in local currency, bringing local cardholders new payment choices and convenient and favorable card-using service.

Partners insert card to open gate

UnionPay International is accelerating the optimization of overseas UnionPay card products and its service system.

As more Africans travel to China, too, on business and pleasure, having a UnionPay is useful for yuan-related business, such as automatic currency exchange.

According to the rules of the newly released UnionPay cards in Africa, before leaving for China, customers can put US dollars into their account and the money can then be automatically converted into yuan at the current exchange rate, which greatly reduces the risk of carrying cash and exchange rate fluctuation."

"With a strong record in China and the wider Asia region, we are well-positioned to facilitate the growth of business and consumption in Asia and the rest of the world."

"As a relatively young player in the global payments industry, we are committed to the company's brand promise."

UnionPay will continue to invest in human resources, business innovation and infrastructure enhancement, and partner closely with banks, merchants and cardholders, he says.

With the increasing use of e-money worldwide, Wang says, plastic money still remains competitive.

"E-money and plastic money are payment tools in different areas and with different interactive channels. From a global perspective, the plastic money industry has put in place a great ATM and POS network with relatively mature payment technology."

"Therefore, plastic money is of greater advantage in terms of convenience in carrying and using and security in payment."

Wang says credit cards can play a vital role in Africa in terms of reducing the cost of financial activities.

"The development of credit cards has reduced the cost of transactions in economic life and the proportion of cash carried in hand, significantly increasing economic development," he says.

Partners insert card to open gate

"On the other hand, as a service medium, credit cards have formed a bond between banks, card organizations and cardholders, placing banks and card organizations in a better position to understand users' demands and provideing them with more considerate service, thus promoting economic activities," he says.

Earlier this year UnionPay established a partnership with Raw Bank of the Democratic Republic of Congo to issue credit cards, which has proved highly effective and is now being used by growing numbers of customers for China-related business, and efforts continue now to increase its local customer base.

The Cim Group statement says that the three new credit cards come with advantages over local products, such as no annual fee for the first year, up to 45 days interest-free credit and secure payments with chip and PIN technology.

The gold and business cards come with free travel and purchase protection insurance.

Entry level for many banking services is too high in some parts of Africa for most customers, which is against the principle of financial inclusiveness that many international financial organizations, including the World Bank, are demanding.

So UnionPay in Africa says it is dedicated to improving financial inclusiveness with its products.

Supported by a strong global risk control center at its headquarters in China, UnionPay's conditions of business are highly regulated. It carefully considers the backgrounds of any bank hoping to join its network. They must be able to offer efficient ATM, POS and Internet banking.

Unlike other cards in Africa, which require only a signature when transactions are done, UnionPay insists on the use of a security number.


(China Daily Africa Weekly 08/08/2014 page20)

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