Equity Bank to issue AmEx cards across Africa

Equity Bank chief executive James Mwangi during
Equity Bank chief executive James Mwangi during the launch of the first American Express cards in Kenya at the bank's Upperhill offices on October 15, 2014. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Equity Bank’s deal with American Express gives the Kenyan lender exclusive rights to issue AmEx credit cards across the continent outside South Africa.

This expands on an earlier pact covering their card business in East Africa.

Under the arrangement, Equity Bank will get a merchant’s commission of three per cent of amounts charged by AmEx card holders. The deal will enable American Express to widen its footprint in Africa, whose markets are attracting more multinational firms and have a growing hospitality industry.

American Express now joins other global card-payment firms, notably Visa and MasterCard, in the African market, which is seen to have huge potential. The firms face rising competition in the United States from payment products being introduced by competitors like Google, Ebay and, soon, Apple.  

“This partnership is in line with our business strategy of becoming a one-stop international payment gateway,” said James Mwangi, Equity Bank’s CEO.

“Our investment in a robust IT platform continues to pay dividends and gives us the opportunity to continue investing in (new) products and services.”

The duo will offer two brands of credit cards, the Equity Bank American Express Green Card and the Equity Bank American Express Gold Card.

The Green Card offers a range of retail and lifestyle benefits and is ideal for those who will mainly shop at local merchants in Kenya. The Gold Card, which comes with additional travel and lifestyle benefits, is suited to frequent travelers or those more likely to spend on leisure.

According to a 2012 survey by research firm Consumer Insight, only four per cent of Kenyans used credit or debit cards when shopping during the year. This was up from two per cent in 2011, suggesting rapid change.

The survey showed 95 per cent of people pay with cash.

The slow uptake of cards was because many consumers considered them cumbersome and they still have limited acceptability.