Western Union, Bharti Airtel Unveil Real-time Global Payments Solution

Airtel Payments Bank

Western Union, a global enabler in cross-border, cross-currency money movement and payments, and Bharti Airtel Limited, a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 18 countries across Asia and Africa, have announced an unprecedented milestone in global money movement across the world’s significant emerging markets.

The two industry leaders have come together to launch real-time payments soon into millions of Airtel Payments Bank accounts in India and Mobile Wallets across 14 countries in Africa.

This key milestone follows the conclusion of new flagship collaborations with two leading subsidiaries of India’s largest integrated telecom – Bharti Airtel, namely Airtel Payments Bank, India’s first payments bank with millions of customers and over 500K banking points across the country and Airtel Africa plc Africa, a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services with a presence in 14 countries in Africa.

Western Union’s collaboration with Airtel Payments Bank in India will offer another channel for real-time cross-border money movement into India, the world’s largest remittance-receiving country, according to the World Bank. Airtel Payments Bank customers can soon direct a Western Union money transfer into their bank accounts 24/7 via their app in real-time. Global senders can use Western Union’s digital services in 75 countries plus territories, or the walk-in Agent network across more than 200 countries and territories.

The collaboration with Airtel Africa will enable more than 15 million Airtel Money mobile wallet users in Nigeria, Uganda, Gabon, Tanzania, Zambia, DRC, Malawi, Madagascar, Kenya, Congo, Niger, Tchad, Rwanda and Seychelles to simply route any money transfer received from across the world into their wallets. It will also allow senders around the world to push funds directly to an Airtel Money mobile wallet in real-time and store value or pay for goods and services. Service launch is expected in the course of 2020.

“The future of money transfer is about customer choice – allowing them to move money whenever, however and wherever they want. Our platform cuts through the complexities of cross-border money movement and payments so millions of customers can access their funds in real-time and in a manner that suits their local infrastructure and preferences,” said Western Union President and CEO, Hikmet Ersek, speaking from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos, Switzerland.

“Our platform offers multiple channel choice for our customers and the customers of our partners including Banks, FIs, Telecom and Fintech players. We applaud Airtel for their global vision of anticipating and leading change in the global digital landscape,” Ersek said.

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos, Switzerland, Hikmet Ersek will join Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel, along with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor as part of a panel “Leading a New Multilateralism”, which focuses on how emerging markets – including India and Africa – are changing the nature of multilateralism.

“Collaborating with Western Union on these two flagship initiatives in both India and Africa reflects Bharti Airtel’s keen commitment to transform the quality of lives of millions of people across emerging and developing markets, providing connectivity and digital empowerment. We are delighted to contribute to the development of a sound and inclusive payments ecosystem in emerging markets to spur financial inclusion and economic growth,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Airtel.

“We are delighted to collaborate with Western Union to add inbound global remittances to our portfolio of digitally enabled financial services. Our technology platforms and deep distribution reach allows customers to access a range of financial services in a convenient fashion. We will continue to bring to market innovative solutions that simplify basic financial services and empower every Indian,” said Anubrata Biswas, MD & CEO, Airtel Payments Bank.

Raghunath Mandava, CEO of Airtel Africa, said, “We are very excited to partner with Western Union to offer Airtel Money customers better access to one of the world’s largest money transfer organisations. International remittances into Africa are a lifeline to some of our customers. This partnership will give our customers the convenience and security of directly receiving and sending remittances from their Airtel mobile money wallets. They will now be automatically credited and debited via their Airtel mobile money wallets on their phone and can immediately access the funds to pay bills or merchants and transfer funds to family and friends or convert to cash from the widespread Airtel Money agents, kiosks and branches.”

This tie up with Western Union adds to other tie ups that Airtel Africa has already put in place to help customers get inflows from across the world.

The announcement marks further expansion of Western Union’s unique ability to partner with a growing base of national and international tech leaders by leveraging its core assets – including global settlement capabilities, network, compliance and technology systems – to enable international cross-border transfers with customer facing innovation.

Airtel Payments Bank in India and Airtel Africa adds to a host of other partners offering receiver-directed Western Union money transfers: eSewa in Nepal, Gcash in the Philippines, mVola in Madagascar and Tigo in El Salvador and Guatemala. Receiver-directed money transfer services are on the rise with flexible linkages offered by mobile apps and wallets. It offers receiving customers the choice of a preferred payout method based on convenience.

Western Union has more than 40 banking and payment partnerships in over 100 countries. This robust network of relationships helps accelerate money movement between institutions and provides reliable connections for deposits to billions of customer accounts and digital wallets.

INDIA: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently shared their National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) for the period 2019-2024. The report states that digital infrastructure in the country needs to be expanded and adoption and acceptance for digital payments and bringing people into the fold of formal financial system must be encouraged. Another objective of the strategy is for every village to have access to a formal financial service provider within a reasonable distance of 5 KM radius. The customers may be onboarded through an easy and hassle-free digital process and processes should be geared towards a less-paper ecosystem.

GSMA projects that in 2025, there will be 623 million unique mobile subscribers, 483 million mobile internet users and penetration of smartphones will reach 66%. Sub-Saharan Africa remains a hotbed for mobile money services. By the end of 2018, there were 395.7 million registered mobile money accounts in the region, representing nearly half of total global mobile money accounts. The region is now served by more than 130 live mobile money services, many of them led by mobile operators, and a network of more than 1.4 million active agents.