UnionPay International Partners with Steward Bank to Accelerate Financial Inclusion in Zimbabwe

UnionPay International announced today that the partnership with Steward Bank Limited (Steward Bank), which is the one of the largest banks in Zimbabwe, to issue 150,000 UnionPay international prepaid cards and 50,000 inclusive debit and credit cards. The international prepaid cards will be used by Zimbabweans traveling abroad, while the debit cards will be used both domestically and internationally. This is the first time that a Zimbabwean bank has partnered with UnionPay for the issuance of an international prepaid card. Mr. Zhang Luping, Africa Branch General Manager of UnionPay International, and Mr. Lance Mambondiani, CEO of Steward Bank, attended the MOU signing ceremony.

The acceptance rate of UnionPay cards in Zimbabwe has reached 80%, through the enablement of Steward Bank and its popular mobile financial services sister company, EcoCash. Together with EcoCash, Steward Bank acquires majority of electronic payments in Zimbabwe. The prepaid and debit/credit cards issued by Steward Bank are both UnionPay IC cards, which support contactless payment service and e-commerce payment. The issued cards will be used by Zimbabwean traders, students and various other individual and commercial users in China for purchases at trade hubs, hotels, airports, etc.

UnionPay will also collaborate with Steward Bank to deliver innovative payment products in Zimbabwe which include virtual cards, mobile payment and QR Code. Zimbabwe has a developed mobile payment market environment where local consumers pay via mobile phones. Through the cooperation with Steward Bank as one of the biggest merchant acquirer in Zimbabwe, 35,000 merchants in Zimbabwe that will accept UnionPay QuickPass payment, which brings convenience to UnionPay Contactless card users. UnionPay International will also deepen cooperation with Steward Bank to expand payment scenarios accepting mobile payments, and promote its wallet products to accept UnionPay QR code services.

According to Dr Lance Mambondiani, the Steward Bank CEO, “China has emerged as the largest trading partner of Africa in the last 6 years and this continues to grow phenomenally. More than 2,000 Chinese companies have invested in more than 50 African countries. Chinese enterprises have become a driving force of Africa`s economic development and as such Steward Bank is proud to partner UnionPay International, the largest cards issuer in the world. The partnership is a strategic alliance that will enable the facilitation of trade between Asia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has a lot of students and traders that travel to China. As a customer-centric organisation, we understand that there is limited acceptance of some of our card offerings in Guangzhou and Mainland China. Our response was to partner UnionPay, with the widest card acceptance in China to ensure a seamless experience for our customers. UnionPay cardholders will be afforded the opportunity to transact at more than 35,000 merchant points in Zimbabwe.”

“Africa has always been a market we value very much. Over the past few years in particular, with the in-depth implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, we are carrying out extensive collaborations with institutions in Africa to support China-Africa trade and personnel exchanges”, Mr. Luping Zhang, General Manager of UnionPay International Africa Branch stated, “Here in Zimbabwe, we are growing UnionPay acceptance aggressively wherever possible. We will continue to strengthen cooperation with Steward Bank in innovative payment solutions, to provide more payment options for our customers as well as to create more value to Steward Bank”.

At present, 50 countries and regions in Africa accept UnionPay cards, and the overall acceptance rate has reached more than 75%. Eleven countries in Africa, including Mauritius, Nigeria and Uganda, have issued UnionPay cards such as premium cards, business cards, and Asian travel cards.