Wednesday 29, March 2017 by Nabilah Annuar

IFC makes equity investment to expand payment infrastructure in the Middle East and Africa

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the IFC Middle East and North Africa Fund, managed by IFC Asset Management Company, has announced a combined indirect equity investment of $30 million via the WP/GA consortium fund in Network International, a leading provider of payment solutions, to expand the payment infrastructure in the Middle East and Africa.

IFC and the MENA Fund have each invested $15 million to acquire indirect stakes in Network International, which is jointly controlled by the Emirates NBD Bank and Warburg Pincus/General Atlantic consortium. The investment will help the company expand and modernise its banking client network in the Middle East and Africa, by helping them develop electronic channels, improve their level of service, and expand their reach into underserved segments, boosting financial inclusion.

The investment is expected to allow MSMEs to access card-based payments and develop digital data records, to help them grow their customer base. Network International’s expansion will also promote cross-regional integration of the financial and payment infrastructure.

Simon Haslam, Group CEO of Network International, said, “This investment is testimony to Network International’s position as the leading payment solutions provider in the Middle East and Africa, operating across 71 countries, servicing over 200 banks and more than 70,000 merchants. It will help Network International as it continues on its path to growth with new and exciting products and services harnessing the latest technology.”

"Network International is well positioned to offer affordable and innovative solutions to merchants, banks and consumers, strengthening the payment infrastructure. A shared infrastructure brings down costs and boosts financial inclusion, while reducing the risk of fraud,” added Bassel Hamwi, Head of the IFC Middle East and North Africa Fund.

According to McKinsey, credit card, debit card and ATM penetration in the Middle East and Africa is the lowest in the world, with only 0.25 cards per adult and 97 per cent of all transactions still cash based. Only 31 per cent of the population is banked, while more than 30 million micro, small and medium enterprises remain unserved or underserved.

“Network International is our strategic partner in establishing and expanding shared financial infrastructure across the Middle East and Africa,” said Andi Dervishi, Global Head of IFC’s Fintech Investment Group. “The company will help modernise banks by developing shared electronic channels with an improved level of service and deeper reach into underserved populations, while improving transparency and reducing money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist financing.”

IFC’s support of Network International is part of a broader strategy in the Middle East and North Africa to address long-term development challenges and increase employment opportunities through the private sector. During fiscal year 2016, IFC committed over $1.3 billion in MENA, including $330 million in mobilisation. IFC’s advisory services approved 20 new projects with a total value of over $21 million.

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