Ant Financial, the parent company of Chinese mobile payment platform Alipay, has reached an agreement to invest US$184.5 million for a 45 percent stake in Norwegian telecom group Telenor subsidiary Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB) in Pakistan, to further develop TMB’s mobile payment and digital financial services in the country.

The strategic partnership between Telenor Group and Ant Financial combines TMB's knowledge and local market presence with more than 20 million customers, and Ant's technology in Alipay, the world's largest digital payment platform, and other financial services, to bring mobile payment and inclusive financial services to individuals as well as small and micro businesses in Pakistan.

TMB offers Easypaisa, Pakistan's first mobile financial services platform launched in 2009, which has since developed into the largest branchless banking service in Pakistan in terms of agent network, active accounts and transaction value, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. TMB also provides micro-finance and related financial services to the less privileged and unbanked segment of the Pakistani society.

“Alipay's technologies make us uniquely placed to achieve our mission of bringing the world equal opportunities,” said Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial. “Today, we are very happy to share our technology know-how with Telenor Microfinance Bank to bring improved user experience on the Easypaisa mobile payment platform, as well as provide inclusive financial services in a transparent, safe, low cost and efficient way to the unbanked and underbanked population in Pakistan.”

Today, more than 100 million Pakistanis are unbanked, accounting for 5 percent of the world's unbanked population, according to the World Bank. This is expected to change drastically in the years to come, especially with rising smartphone penetration. To prepare for that, companies like TMB need to build their digital competence and execution capabilities to serve the need of the users.