HARARE – Mastercard will set up an office in Harare to coordinate its efforts to address financial inclusion, the company’s president and CEO, Ajay Banga, said on Monday.

Banga visited Zimbabwe to this week to show Mastercard’s strong support for the country’s drive to create a new wave of digital payments and inclusive growth, the company said in a statement.

He outlined how Mastercard will collaborate with local private and public sector partners to drive greater financial inclusion through the implementation of innovative payment technologies.

Banga met with key government and private sector officials including Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and Reserve Bank Governor John Mangudya to formalise Mastercard’s support for payments innovation in Zimbabwe.

On the decision to set up office in Harare, Banga said financial inclusion remained a pressing challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa where only 42.6 percent of the adult population has access to an account.

The new office will allow Mastercard to provide more effective support to its customers in neighbouring Southern African countries, Banga told the company’s CEO Conversations event, a gathering of senior executives from top financial institutions, mobile network operators and retailers held in Harare.

“Too many people and businesses are still excluded from the financial mainstream. This leaves them without the things we take for granted – a way to save money for a rainy day, get loans, or insure themselves or their crops,” ssid Banga. “Harnessing our global technologies and expertise, our Zimbabwean team will closely collaborate with all stakeholders to solve local challenges and enable more inclusion in the formal financial system.”

Mastercard’s expertise and products will be relevant across Southern Africa and in Zimbabwe, as the country implements the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which aims to increase access to formal financial services from 69 percent in 2014 to at least 90 percent by 2020.

Mangudya said: “We see Mastercard’s investment as a positive development that will help us achieve our long-standing vision and our strategic plan to accelerate the shift towards cashless payments, modernise payments systems and infrastructure, and build an inclusive financial sector that supports the socio-economic development of the country.”

To increase financial inclusion in Zimbabwe, Mastercard recently partnered with EcoCash to launch EcoCash Scan & Pay, offering a simple, secure and instant QR code-based mobile payments solution to merchants and consumers.

Since it leverages low-cost QR code technology rather than physical point of sale devices, Masterpass QR makes it simple for small and informal traders to accept digital payments.

Mastercard is one of the biggest players in the global payments industry, operating in more than 210 countries and territories.