MasterCard International last week launched its OneSMART MasterCard programme in Africa at a smart card exhibition at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.The objective of the programme is to provide, under one umbrella, all the technological solutions and support required for African banks to migrate to EMV compliant smart cards and terminals, as well as to deploy value-added applications. EMV is the global standard that ensures smart cards issued in one country can be readily accepted by chip terminals worldwide. OneSMART MasterCard programmes are already operating successfully in Malaysia, Taiwan, New Zealand and across Europe. Based on the success in these countries, MasterCard decided to introduce the programme in Africa.

"The OneSMART programme covers every aspect necessary to launch a successful smart card programme," says Eddie Grobler, senior vice president and general manager, MasterCard Southern Africa. "It integrates the key areas of consumer value proposition, marketing initiatives, market-ready technology solutions and end-to-end implementation support."

The programme also enables banks, initially through the smart card exhibition, to best leverage their EMV chip infrastructure by facilitating interaction with more than 20 local and global chip technology suppliers. The suppliers will showcase their respective state-of-the-art products and services to aid banks in tailoring their smart card programmes to meet the needs of their individual cardholders.

The suppliers will provide support in six main categories - consultancy, personalisation systems, smart cards, terminals, host systems and applications. The list is expected to increase, as MasterCard works together with more suppliers, to bring technological options and flexibility to banks in Africa.

"The key to success with smart cards is giving the cardholder compelling reasons to use the card, thereby creating profitable programmes for banks and retailers," says Grobler. "The OneSMART programme is designed to act as a catalyst for African banks to create the best EMV solutions for their customers."

According to MasterCard research released last week at the programme launch, 90% of South African consumers perceive smart cards to be a far more secure way of protecting cards against fraudulent transactions. Almost 80% of those surveyed agreed that they will benefit from this security in their day-to-day spending.

From 1st January 2005 in South Africa, and 1st January 2006 in the rest of Africa, there will be a major shift in liability for fraudulent transactions. Banks who have not upgraded to the EMV smart card standard by these dates will become liable for losses attributed to fraudulent transactions that might have been prevented if they had been EMV compliant.

As well as offering enhanced security, smart cards are also equipped with the potential to carry loyalty programmes, data storage, transportation applications, and more, thus providing cardholders more personalised cards.

MasterCard will also be using the exhibition to demonstrate its latest global smart card solutions, including OneSMART Pre-Authorized, OneSMART Authentication, MasterCard Open Data Storage and MasterCard PayPass, a new 'contactless' payment feature that uses radio frequency technology. "South African banks have an opportunity to transform today's payment cards into a relationship building tool that will exceed the expectations of even the most demanding cardholders," says Grobler. "We see an unprecedented opportunity for African banks to grow their payments business across new channels and new markets."