In the Maghreb and elsewhere, new electronic payment models are changing commerce in a big way.
A company called Emerging Markets Payments (EMP) is pushing these changes in North Africa and elsewhere, with offices in both Libya and Algeria. It is working to enhance buyer options in what many experts refer to as a “largely unbanked continent.”
“Contented people don’t innovate,” EMP leader Paul Edwards said in a 2013 piece in The Economist. Edwards and his teams are dedicated to providing e-payment services in areas where many residents have a smartphone but no bank account.
Experts like Mark Mueller-Eberstein see the new payment models taking over from old cash-based systems. Mueller-Eberstein is the CEO and co-founder of Adgetec Corp., a financial consulting company.
“In order to not be burdened with an existing ‘land-line’ infrastructure for telecommunication and banking, entrepreneurs in Africa have often leapfrogged the western countries in broadly rolling out alternative payments systems, leveraging the mobile networks and newer technologies,” Mueller-Eberstein told Maghreb News Wire on Aug. 24.
Only around 20 percent of the global population have access to the international banking system, Mueller-Eberstein said, and that has negative consequences. But it’s a problem that new e-payments could help solve.
“Blockchain technologies can create access to the global banking system,” Mueller-Eberstein said. “I expect remittances to be a first ‘killer application’ and the combination of mobile technologies and blockchain technology to see … day-to-day payments transforming.”
Commenting on the geopolitical nature of some of these trends, Mueller-Eberstein said Chinese involvement can play a key role.
I would expect to see some of the mobile payment technologies broadly adopted in China to first make an inroad in Africa, where Chinese investments and expatriates are working and living,” Mueller-Eberstein said, citing WeChat pay as an example. “And then, to see them more broadly adopted in the societies around them.”
E-payments and blockchain, Mueller-Eberstein said, will also boost the capabilities of national governments.
“Governments have the opportunity to create national, blockchain-based distributed ledgers and databases for things like land titles and smart contracts,” Mueller-Eberstein said. “These can help to create an independent, fast, efficient and reliable economic and legal system outside of a potentially slow or even corrupt traditional process.”