Ant Financial (owner of Alipay) will invest USD 73.5 million into digital payment platform Wave Money. With the investment, the Alibaba affiliate will join Yoma Bank and Telenor as the primary stakeholders of one of Myanmar’s largest fintech services. “As part of the strategic partnership, Wave Money will leverage Ant Group’s experience building mobile payment platforms to enhance its digital competence, capabilities, user experience and service offerings to better address the needs of users in Myanmar,” Wave Money said in a statement.
Wave Money allows users to make digital money transfers via a network of around 57,000 “Wave Shops” scattered throughout the country. Its business model caters to a population with relatively high smart phone penetration but relatively low use of bank accounts, credit cards and other traditional financial services. Although similar ventures, such as the ill-fated Red Dot, have had difficulty operating in Myanmar, Wave Money claims that 21 million people have used its platform since it launched in 2016. Since October, 2018, Wave Money users have grown by 14 percent each month, it continued. “Myanmar is ready for mass adoption of digital payments with a connected population and high smartphone penetration,” said Wave Money CEO Brad Jones.
Other digital payment services – notably KBZ Bank’s KBZ Pay platform – have also gained ground in recent years. As Myanmar’s economy suffers under the global COVID-19 pandemic, the fintech industry stands to enjoy a boost. The government has made promoting of digital, and therefore contactless, payment platforms one of the tenants of its COVID-19 economic mitigation plan.