The mobile money revolution in Africa is attracting a big name. Global payments giant Mastercard announced Thursday it was investing $100 million in Airtel Africa’s money transfer unit, which allows users to exchange money via basic cell phones.
The deal values the division, which operates in 14 countries, at $2.65 billion, more than a third of its parent company’s total enterprise value.
The 12-fold valuation of the EBITDA unit expected this year could prompt other African telecom operators to seek to do the same. By the same standard, M-Pesa, the pioneering mobile money offering owned by Kenyan telecom operator Safaricom, which is worth $13 billion, would be worth $4 billion, assuming $660 million in revenue this year and an EBITDA margin similar to Airtel’s (49%).
As the continent’s mobile markets become increasingly saturated, operators have a vested interest in getting in on the payments revolution that is raging around the world.