Visa International has appointed Prism Holdings which listed on the JSE's IT sector in October, to deliver in Africa a card payment scheme developed for emerging markets.
COPAC (chip offline pre-authorised card) is billed as a low-cost, portable payment scheme which can work in any environment with simple communications infrastructures and banking systems. The company says it is also perfect for the microlending sector.
Mike Serrao, MD of Prism Holdings subsidiary Prism Card Technologies, says there are countries in which purchasing and card products such as credit and debit cards are not issued and where most people are unbanked.
"Visa's backing and reputation as a trustworthy solid brand which is instantly recognisable by most consumers around the world will boost COPAC's acceptability in the eyes of banks, merchants and consumers," he says.
"In fact, banks in numerous African countries have already committed to implementing the payment system," he says.
Serrao says most purchasing cards use a magnetic stripe and - particularly with debit cards - require an online connection to the bank for authorisation of transactions. However, in emerging markets, most merchants are offline and so transactions are denied, he adds.
With COPAC, the bank authorises funds on the card against an account up to a pre-authorised limit. The system is also PIN protected.
"As purchases are made, the funds are debited against the pre-authorisation limit. The merchant's terminal - with its own merchant smartcard - acts as an offline authentication mechanism as well as a repository for completed transactions,"
Serrao explains, "If the purchase value exceeds the available preauthorised limit, the transaction is rejected."
The merchant has to go to the bank occasionally to upload transaction information from his card and the money is credited to his account.
While Prism has provided components of the COPAC system in the past, Visa has now authorised it to design and implement end-to-end COPAC solutions throughout Africa.
"In addition to producing the smartcards with embedded applications on which COPAC is based, Prism will also provide the terminal apparatus and back-end card processing systems required to support COPAC," says Serrao.
For details contact Prism Card Technologies on tel: (011) 467 0100, fax: (011) 467 0160.