MasterCard has reached an agreement with British Virgin Islands-based financial services firm Atlas Mara to establish a stronger digital payment ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa.

The strategic alliance aims to bring up to 20 million consumers and 100,000 merchants to the formal financial sector by 2020.

The partnership, using the MasterCard worldwide network, will enable Atlas Mara’s operating banks in Africa to build stronger payment ecosystems and expand access to fast and secure remittance, e-Commerce, and mobile payment solutions.

As part of the partnership, MasterCard will also roll out its mobile-driven, person-to-merchant (P2M) payment solution Masterpass QR, which will provide merchants with an affordable alternative to traditional point-of-sale (POS) terminals to accept electronic payments from their customers.

Additionally, merchants and consumers will be able to access to the MasterCard suite of digital and traditional payment solutions, including prepaid, debit, and credit MasterCard cards.

Atlas Mara chief digital officer Chidi Okpala said: “These MasterCard assets will position Atlas Mara to lead ongoing industry efforts to create cash-lite payments ecosystems, entrench financial independence, promote intra-Africa trade and remittances thus fast tracking attainment of scale as an Africa focused bank.

“The digital payment solutions developed by the MasterCard Lab for Financial Inclusion in collaboration with Atlas Mara will help create a highly efficient society and facilitate true inclusive growth in Africa while reducing transaction costs across the continent.”

MasterCard division president for Sub-Saharan Africa Daniel Monehin said: “Sub-Saharan Africa requires innovative solutions and strong collaborations across sectors to help drive economic growth.

“Mobile subscriptions in the region are steadily increasing and it is clear that mobile based solutions are relevant to the needs of people on the continent, and will help to develop an Africa that is less dependent on cash.”