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MasterCard, Airtel mobile plan flies in face of cybercrime

Michael Malakata | Sept. 22, 2011
Despite an upsurge in cybercrime targeting the financial sector in Africa, Standard Chartered Bank, Airtel Africa and MasterCard have partnered to launch the region's first virtual card linked to a mobile wallet.

MasterCard World, Standard Chartered bank and Airtel Africa believe however that their online transaction system is secure and will provide secure and efficient services to customers.

"The introduction of the new product will address the huge gap between banks and mobile phone operators," said Fayaz King, Airtel Zambia managing direct at the launch of Airtel money last week.

Registered Airtel customers will be able to make purchases across Africa from any site where MasterCard is accepted. Airtel Africa has a presence in 16 countries in Africa including Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and Malawi.

With phishing attacks on the increase and less security provided on mobile and online transactions, many people fear that they will lose their money to scammers.

"Airtel has not said the security system it has put in place will ensure safe and secure transactions," said Lillian Mwale an Airtel money customer.

The bank of Zambia, however, said the increase in mobile banking will help overcome the longstanding challenge of reaching out to the unbanked population.

"The use of electronic system will reduce the use of cash in the economy. We therefore encourage the usage of alternative means of payment," said Austin Mwape, Bank of Zambia deputy governor for operations.

Mwape said the Bank of Zambia expects a safe, efficient, secure and reliable transaction service.

Some telecom companies in the region already have arrangements with online payment providers such as Paypal that allow the transmission of funds from users in the U.S. and Europe to their relatives' mobile phones in the region via online accounts.

The push toward convergence of various services offered by commercial banks and telecom companies is not only providing easy access to bank accounts but also helps cut transaction costs, increase efficiency and profits.

But fears are rampant that African countries lack the skills, equipment and organizational abilities to fight cybercrime. Generally, ignorance has been cited as the reason many people in Africa fall prey to online scams as criminal's websites are built to entice and make people fill out even intimate details.

 

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