On Monday 5 February 2018 Standard Bank and UnionPay International announced that the companies have entered into a partnership which will see the bank accept UnionPay cards in multiple African markets. The companies believe that the dual development is set to transform Africa’s access to China as well as simplify the ability of Chinese people to transact in Africa. Standard Bank also announced that it is now the first African bank to receive the license to issue UnionPay cards in South Africa.
“African entrepreneurs and importers of Chinese goods and services have, traditionally, had to travel to China carrying foreign currency in cash for conversion into renminbi,” explained George Lo, Executive Head: Pan Africa China Banking at Standard Bank.
Going forward, Standard Bank cards or online transaction solutions will provide access to all UnionPay-enabled platforms in China, and Africans dealing with China will no longer need to travel with cash. Instead, “they will soon be able to purchase goods directly from suppliers throughout China at the swipe of a card,” explains Lo.
UnionPay is one of the world’s leading card payments systems and hosts the majority of transactions in China. As such, Standard Bank’s agreement to accept UnionPay cards in multiple African markets by the end of 2018 broadens the geographic footprint – and potential customer reach – of UnionPay in Africa.
Larry Wang, Vice President of UnionPay International speaking on the partnership said, “ I’m excited to be working with Standard Bank, Africa’s biggest bank, which provides UnionPay an unrivalled platform with unmatched reach across Africa. UnionPay strives to ensure convenient and safe payment services to a growing number global UnionPay cardholders visiting Africa, an increasingly important business and leisure destination. We also look forward to collaborating with Standard Bank in card issuance – providing exciting new payment options for new African customers.”
In preparation for African expansion, UnionPay International recently appointed Luping Zhang as General Manager of UnionPay International Africa. The appointment will strengthen UnionPay’s relationship with both Standard Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) while dramatically increasing the use of UnionPay cards in both Africa and China. This will, “position UnionPay as the key transaction-enabler between Africa and China,” added Wang.
From an African perspective, the agreement with UnionPay International provides Africans with direct access to China, including China’s highly developed electronic and mobile transaction platforms. Payment apps are hugely popular in China. Nearly all of these are exclusively UnionPay-enabled. This means that Standard Bank‘s UnionPay capability will allow Africans with Standard Bank accounts, cards or online payment products to access the full range of payment apps currently used to transact in China.
Lincoln Mali, Group Head: Group Cards & Emerging Payments at Standard Bank believes that, “the combination of Standard Bank’s existing relationship with ICBC and now also UnionPay International is likely, in time, to obviate the need for Africans to travel to China at all.”
“Standard Bank card holders will be able to access China’s ecommerce marketplace. This will allow African traders to locate and select goods remotely and then pay for them electronically via their Standard Bank cards. Going forward this will happen, “from desks, laptops and phones in Africa – without Standard Bank clients having to move physical cash, convert currency or travel to China,” added Mali.
From a Chinese perspective, travelling, operating and transacting in Africa’s multi-jurisdictional and multi-currency landscapes will also become dramatically easier. “At the swipe of a card at any Standard Bank hosted point of sale – or through simple internet banking – the need for Chinese business people or tourists to carry physical cash or convert and transfer foreign currency falls away,” added Lo.
The African Business Review recently reported that Chinese tourist arrivals in Africa doubled in the 12 months up to August 2017. Standard Bank’s incremental extension of UnionPay across the continent is likely to increase this trend as, “transacting and traveling in Africa becomes both easier and safer for Chinese tourists and business people alike – soon able to operate in a cashless environment by merely swiping their cards,” according to Mali.
In short, “these two developments widen the relevance of UnionPay to both Africans and Chinese seeking to access opportunity and support transactions at both end of the Africa China corridor – by increasing the number of African’s trading with China as well as the number of Chinese businesses and services dealing with Africa,” said Lo.
More broadly, hosting UnionPay in Africa demonstrates Standard Bank’s commitment to building and expanding its Africa China capabilities corridor.
By assembling the tools, systems and relationships to support and grow the number of transactions while increasing the ease, functionality and accessibility of the Africa China corridor, “Standard Bank is working to deliver the full growth and development potential that China and Africa have in each other,” concluded Lo.