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Visa Inc., the world’s largest payments network, introduced a mobile-phone application to enable cashless transactions in Kenya, where the majority of wireless payments are being done through the nation’s biggest telecommunications company, Safaricom Ltd.

The service dubbed mVisa, allows consumers to make purchases and money transactions using their mobile phones. The mVisa application runs on the Visa global network, hence transactions can be conducted at virtually any outlet that accepts Visa regardless the currency.

With mVisa, consumers can pay merchants by scanning a QR code on a smart phone or by entering a merchant number into a feature phone.  The payment goes straight from the consumer’s bank account into the merchant’s account and provides real-time notification to both parties.

The QR code, which provides the customers with the merchant’s bank details, can be in the form of a static printout (either on the store counter or on a printed bill) or a dynamic display generated on the merchant’s mobile device. This allows merchants of all sizes to accept electronic payments without the need to obtain and run traditional point-of-sale devices;

The payment is initiated by the consumer, providing them with complete control over the transaction.

The mVisa app will initially facilitate transactions for people with accounts at four banks, including KCB Group Ltd. and Co-operative Bank of Kenya Ltd., according to Visa Emerging Markets Senior Vice President Uttam Nayak.

The mVisa service was first launched last year, in India, where it has so far signed up several banks and around 30,000 merchants. Visa now plans to expand throughout Africa, with Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Nigeria likely to join Kenya by the end of the year.

Credit: Bloomberg, CIO