Ecobank Transnational Inc. and MasterCard have agreed to promote electronic payments throughout Central and West Africa, accelerating use of payment cards for consumers and mobile card readers for merchants.

More than 1,300 Ecobank branches will issue MasterCard debit, prepaid and credit cards to millions of customers in 32 sub-Saharan countries over the next decade, the bank stated in a June 16 press release.

In addition to issuing cards, Ecobank will provide thousands of merchants with mobile point of sale card readers to accept card payments through their smartphones. The Ecobank-issued cards can also be used for ATM withdrawals.

In recent years, MasterCard and other key payments industry players have focused their attention on enabling payments in emerging markets through the use of mobile point-of-sale technology.

MasterCard will also provide its payment gateway service to boost online commerce in for Ecobank's small and medium enterprise, commercial and corporate customers.

"The initiative enables us to extend our MasterCard acquiring capabilities at thousands of merchants across Africa," Albert Essien, group CEO for Ecobank, said in the release.

Ecobank plans to grow its e-commerce acquiring business and expand service offerings to retail and commercial customers in Africa, Essien added.

MasterCard has aggressively continued its financial inclusion mission to create electronic and digital payments and money transfer networks in less developed regions that lack banks and financial services.

Earlier this year, the card brand partnered with the government of Gujarat to help make it the first state in India to have a digital payments system. 

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