Card acceptance/compliance continues to grow exponentially in African countries and with the mounting need for secure and reliable communications for electronic ATM and POS transactions on the rise, this is a critical service which XLink Communications (XLink) has been able to provide.

More retailers in Africa recognise the need for electronic payment solutions as the shift from cash to card ensues and as many of South Africa’s major retailers now operate in these regions, the opportunity exists to partner with these merchants to provide the relevant connectivity. Local banks are also setting up offices in several of these countries, and XLink is able to provide a solution to these banks as part of its broader partnership.

XLink has extensive experience in payment transactions and is the largest carrier of EFT (electronic funds transfer) services across the GSM network in the local market. It identified an opportunity four years ago to expand its offering into the African continent by developing a solution that would they could sell to the in-country Service Provider.

The offering includes all the required equipment and the necessary training support to implement the service and thereafter, via remote tools support the service from South Africa.

XLink provided a down-scale version of their local service, known as XLink-in-a-Box, which they can install regionally and train the respective in-country Business Partner. The third line support is managed remotely via XLink’s Technical Services Division based in Johannesburg.

The solution includes a full end-to-end monitoring platform of all communications to enable customers to quickly resolve faults during the communication leg of a transaction providing merchants in Africa with a reliable, cost-effective
and sustainable solution for their POS and ATMs communications.

Communication still remains a moot point for acquirers in Africa, which is resolved by the introduction of a low cost, IP based communication system delivered at a fixed cost. XLink’s scaled down version was developed to address the needs of users that struggle with existing communications solutions from a cost, reliability and network coverage perspective.

XLink’s growth strategy into Africa has been to partner with banking institutes (whom they are already accredited with in the South African market) and the mobile network operator in these markets. This has meant that the capital cost to reach these markets is negligible as they operate on existing infrastructures simply acquiring knowledge and understanding of the existing setup in place. XLink’s in-country partner helps manage the individual challenges that arise and provide assistance where required.

The billing and collection fees model is such that this is conducted locally with the financial institution or mobile network operator, another smart adaptation to their local business model and expansion strategy.

To date, XLink has a footprint in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia. Comments Carl Larsen, XLink Executive Head M2M Sales & Africa, “We are now looking at a further three countries where we will be partnering with Vodacom Business Africa to roll out into Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania. This will allow banks and retailers to couple their ATMs or credit card machines to the in-country solution avoiding having to take transactions across borders. Further markets where we see potential for growth are Angola and Cameroon.”