Absa Partners with UnionPay to Provide Easy Banking for Chinese Visitors in South Africa

Absa partnered with UnionPay International (“UPI”) earlier this year to allow UPI cardholders living in or visiting South Africa to transact at any of Absa’s point-of-sale (POS) terminals and withdraw cash at Absa’s 9153 ATMs nationwide.

The first live transaction was completed in Johannesburg today.

Larry Wang, Chief Business Development Officer of UPI conducted the first UPI card withdrawal and POS terminal transaction, signalling the official launch of Absa’s acceptance of UPI cards.

The partnership with Absa substantially expands UPI’s presence on the continent. It will see the local ATM and POS acceptance of UPI cards rise to over 75% to provide a convenient, safe and cost-effective card-using experience for UPI cardholders living in South Africa as well as those visiting the country for travel, business and study purposes.

According to Statistics South Africa, the total number of Chinese tourists who visited South Africa in October last year increased by 85,6% to 7 902 compared with the same month in 2014. Around 47 000 Chinese tourists visited South Africa last year, making South Africa one of China’s fastest growing tourist destinations. UPI is one of the largest card brands in the world and offers a solution that is ideal for SMEs and larger corporates looking to tap into one the world’s biggest consumer market.

Absa will roll out its full base for UPI acceptance to local merchants in the next few months. The bank has provided a Chinese interface on all ATM screens, which ensures convenient service to the growing number of global UPI cardholders visiting our country.

“Today marks a key milestone for Absa as it represents our first association with a Chinese partner in the retail and business banking sectors. The partnership is a win-win for both parties, as it allows Absa to serve this market and increase transactions carried by UPI cardholders,” says Craig Bond, Chief Executive: Absa Retail and Business Banking.

“The Chinese are now the world’s largest consumers of luxury goods and we hope that this joint initiative and service will also meet the needs of a large number of our corporate retail merchants including those involved in the travel and entertainment industries, who may require the acceptance of UPI cards on their POS devices. As the largest card acquirer in the country, with the best uptime and reliability scores, we are well positioned to serve our fast growing merchant base,” adds Bond.

During phase two of the partnership, UPI acceptance will be rolled out in other African countries where Barclays Africa is represented – enabling tens of thousands of ATMs and POS terminals across the continent.

The agreement covers 10 African countries in which Barclays Africa has a presence and significantly expands the company’s presence across English speaking Africa.

Wang says the deal with Barclays Africa is a sign of the importance of China-Africa trade and investment flows. “Barclays Africa is the leading financial services provider of choice in Africa. Given the growing financial ties between China and Africa, this partnership will facilitate payments by our UnionPay cardholder base either resident in or visiting South Africa or the other countries where both parties have a presence, namely Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.”

Unlike more developed markets, Africa is largely cash-driven. Studies suggest that for every POS transaction in Africa, there are more than 25 cash transactions. Wang sees this as a huge opportunity. “There is tremendous room for growth across Africa, as we see more and more people switching from cash to other means of payment.”

UnionPay International, though relatively new to Africa, is a conglomerate in China and Asia, and is fast expanding beyond its Asian home base. Headquartered in China, it has made rapid inroads to the African market in the last six years. It was originally set up to service the growing number of tourist and business visitors from China who are UPI cardholders, but is now partnering with local banks to be able to issue cards to African customers.

“UPI’s success in Africa is largely due to their understanding of developing countries’ requirements. It differs from its competitors in several other aspects: for instance, it is a membership association which provides more growth and exposure opportunities for its members,” concludes Wang.

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