(Yicai Global) Feb. 27 -- The number of overseas transactions made via bank card provider China UnionPay Co.'s mobile payments system almost tripled on the year over the week-long Chinese New Year holiday, a lunar calendar-based festival which began in middle of this month.
UnionPay, which was set up by China's central bank, has rolled out QR code payments in 13 markets across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, the company said in a statement. Prior to the holiday period, many merchants in Nepal, Kenya, Djibouti, Vietnam and Taiwan adopted the system to prepare for the arrival of Chinese tourists.
While many companies from other countries struggle to get users on board for mobile payments, China and its top tech firms are pioneering cashless technology. Smartphone transactions in the nation tallied CNY81 trillion (USD17 trillion) over the first 10 months of last year, soaring almost 38 percent from the full-year figure for 2016, data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology shows.
UnionPay partnered Kenya's largest commercial bank KCB Bank Kenya Ltd. in August to support the development of local mobile payments. Hundreds of vendors, including KFC, local supermarket chain Naukumat, Kenya Airways and South African Airways have taken on the payment mechanism, which expects to make its way to 2,500 more companies this year.
Nearly 100 merchants in Nepal, including outdoor goods brand The North Face, implemented UnionPay's QR code payments. The firm hopes the figure will rise to 1,000 this year and roll out the system in Indonesia, Cambodia, Mauritius and other popular destinations for Chinese tourists.
There were almost 90 million international UnionPay cards in circulation as of the end of 2017, UnionPay International Co., the firm's international arm, said on its website earlier this month. The company has issued more than 25 million cards to Belt and Road countries and become the leading provider in Laos, Mongolia and Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013. It is a grand 30- to 40-year plan for a vast infrastructure and trade network encompassing railroads, highways, ports and pipelines across Asia, Europe and Africa.
UnionPay was founded in 2002 and offers international bank cards through its interbank transaction clearing system. It covers 160 countries and regions across the world and rolled out its QR code payment system, in partnership with 40 banks, in May last year.