Payment processors are stepping up efforts to position themselves for expected growth in international money transfers using mobile devices.
Western Union Co. plans to announce today that it has an alliance with a Kuwaiti telephone company, Zain Group, to offer international remittance services to users of mobile devices in the Middle East and Africa.
Zain also will participate in a digital vendor program that the Englewood, Colo., remittance company announced Monday to promote a standard for incorporating the company's payments technology into mobile wallets.
Rebecca Mann, the director of strategic alliances in Western Union's digital ventures unit, said the company believes the certification program can drive a network effect that strengthens its competitive position in the evolving mobile payments market.
"We think it will significantly accelerate the expansion of cross-border money transfers," Mann said.
Zain now offers its Zap mobile financial services in three African countries — Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya — but plans to expand Zap across the 22 nations where it operates, Mann said. "We see huge potential in intra-Africa money transfers across borders."
Western Union also announced Monday a digital vendor program through which it will work with mobile technology providers on its Western Union Money Transfer services for wireless handsets.
The plan is to certify mobile vendors that use standard technical deployments as a way to reduce integration costs and accelerate adoption for the customers of banks and mobile operators, the remittance company said.
Separately, the British mobile payment specialist Mi-Pay Ltd. announced a partnership Monday with Small World Financial Services Group of London, which offers money transfer, check cashing and currency exchange services in eight European countries.
Mi-Pay and Small World said they plan to create a "mobile money superhighway" for mobile network operators.
Mi-Pay offers mobile money transfer and international prepay phone reloads in more than 30 countries along with services including mobile-initiated payments, mobile banking and handset-based authentication.
Small World uses a variety of brands to offer retail financial services through 60 branches and more than 1,500 agents.