Enabling digital and financial inclusion in West Africa our focus – Country Manager, Mastercard


… to usher one billion people into digital economy by 2025

By Juliet ETEFE

Country Manager and Area Business Head for West Africa at Mastercard, Folasade Femi-Lawal has said her outfit is on a mission to drive digital innovation and inclusion in West Africa’s rapidly evolving financial landscape.

She emphasised their commitment, noting that Mastercard is at the forefront of constructing a robust payment ecosystem in key West African markets, bridging partners with digital solutions and technology.

This is in line with its goal to usher one billion people into the digital economy by 2025, she says.

This becomes necessary at a time many thoughts horn scaling digital financial services in the African region, holding strongly that, it is critical to enable and achieve economic and social development, driving access for those that remain unbanked and underserved.

“Over the past year, we have initiated and continued collaborations with key stakeholders aimed at diversifying our touch points or the avenues with which our customers and consumers interact with us, ultimately increasing access to financial services.

“Mastercard envisions a future where it stands as a beacon of digital innovation and inclusion in West Africa’s dynamic digital payments landscape. At the heart of this vision is the recognition of an evolving digital financial ecosystem, where traditional ways of working are transforming.

“Our strategic approach to driving digital innovation and inclusion includes devising locally relevant solutions and collaborating with various public and private sector partners,” she stated.

She made this known in an exclusive interview with the B&FT after she was appointed the new country manager, where she shared insights into the company’s strategic agenda, partnerships, and initiatives aimed at advancing financial inclusion; empowering Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, and fostering a cashless society in the region.

Driving innovation and growth

As Country Manager, she is responsible for further driving the company’s strategic vision, innovation and growth agenda, as well as strengthening partnerships with key stakeholders, and advancing the company’s mission of building a more connected and inclusive digital economy in West Africa.

With a focus on collaboration, innovation, and inclusion, she noted that Mastercard is committed to building a more connected and inclusive digital economy that benefits everyone in the region.

She explained that, in addition to collaborating with partners, it is leveraging its global network, scale, and experience to develop locally relevant products that will advance digital transformation, build trust, and go beyond transactions.

“We are also implementing initiatives and solutions in partnerships with fintechs, financial institutions, and other key stakeholders, to enhance the payment ecosystem and satisfy the market’s diverse needs,” she added.

With a background in management consulting, telecommunications, and business advisory services, the new Country Manager noted that she anticipates integrating her diverse perspectives and expertise into Mastercard’s strategies for West Africa by leveraging: “experience in building relationships across public bodies, private organisations (including traditional banks and fintech), regulatory authorities, and other key stakeholders.

“My focus will be on continuous stakeholder engagement and understanding the pain points and critical business drivers across key sectors – all of which are crucial for developing strategies that resonate with the local landscape.”

She added that her track record of achievements, innovation, and integrity in the field of digital transformation positions her well to drive Mastercard’s growth and innovation agenda in this dynamic and diverse region.

“I am committed to advancing inclusive and sustainable growth through digital payments and technology, and I look forward to contributing to Mastercard’s vision of powering an inclusive digital economy that benefits everyone and everywhere,” she noted.

Elevating Presence and strengthening partnerships

Looking ahead, she stated that Mastercard plans to elevate its presence in West Africa through continuous innovation, strategic investments, and capacity building, emphasising the importance of understanding local markets, fostering strategic alliances, and adapting strategies to emerging trends.

She further stressed the continuous importance of collaborations with governments, financial institutions, non-profits, fintechs, and telcos to deliver value and unlock growth opportunities.

Mastercard is also committed to fostering inclusive growth and empowerment, particularly for women and youth. Its initiatives like Girls4Tech aim to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields, this and other initiatives align with its goal of reaching 25 million women entrepreneurs and driving social impact in West Africa.

Market’s challenges and opportunities

Speaking on how she intends to leverage her experience in digital payments to address the challenges and embrace opportunities unique to the West African market, she stated that Mastercard’s approach hinges on leveraging extensive industry knowledge and technical expertise.

She said by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the region’s market dynamics, including consumer preferences, regulatory frameworks, and technological infrastructure, it aims to tailor solutions to meet specific needs.

“We will continue to drive strategic alliances with key stakeholders, including financial institutions, technology providers, regulatory bodies, and local businesses. These partnerships will facilitate the implementation of innovative solutions, drive market penetration, and ensure compliance with regulatory standards.

“Furthermore, Mastercard continues to innovate, recognising the dynamic nature of the digital payments landscape. This will involve staying abreast of emerging trends and technologies and adapting strategies in response to evolving market conditions,” she added.

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