Alibaba’s Alipay Lands in South Africa

June 29, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Now, things are getting just a little more interesting in mobile payments. That’s not to say it wasn’t always pretty interesting around this field, but now we’re starting to see mobile payment systems make a much harder push into the international market. One of the most recent developments on this front features Alipay, which made a push into South Africa, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

Much in the same way it made a move on the American market, it’s mostly being done as a way to give Chinese tourists a more familiar payment method to facilitate their travel. As noted by Alipay’s head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) operations Rita Liu, it’s a partnership between Alipay and City Sightseeing, a tour bus operator in South Africa. Support is to be provided by ACI Worldwide and Peach Payments, firms connected to City Sightseeing.

Liu further noted that Alipay considers Africa to be a region of “big potential,” further noting that Alipay wanted more areas of expansion where there was already some substantial Chinese presence anyway. With 135 million Chinese traveling internationally every year, Alipay wants to be where those people are.

With major investment in other countries’ payment systems—Alipay recently dropped a bundle in Paytm in India and its affiliate Ant Financial bought out the United States’ MoneyGram—it’s clear that Alipay wants to carry out expansion efforts in a big way all throughout the planet. Yet it’s likewise clear that Alipay isn’t looking to compete with those countries’ payment systems so much as it is offering an option to travelers.

There’s something to be said for that; with a market roughly equivalent to half the United States’ total population engaging in international travel, there’s a real possibility there to be the go-to mobile payments platform for that market. That means a lot of potential revenue going forward and Alibaba has stepped up to lay claim to a big chunk of that. In fact, if it keeps going like this, it might just be the entrenched provider to beat.

Alibaba’s plan will take a while to coalesce, but based on what it’s up to now, Alipay could be a very big name worldwide in a very short time frame.