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Alibaba's payments app Alipay expands into Africa

A customer uses the Alipay payments app on a smartphone.
Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images
A customer uses the Alipay payments app on a smartphone.

Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate that runs the payment app Alipay, unveiled the latest step in its global expansion strategy Monday. The platform is to launch in South Africa with the intention of servicing Chinese tourists.

Rita Liu, head of Alipay EMEA, told CNBC's Street Signs that the firm would work with tour bus operator City Sightseeing, facilitated by its partner ACI Worldwide and local company Peach Payments "to enable Chinese tourists to purchase tourists more conveniently from City Sightseeing buses."

"We see big potential in Africa," Liu added, saying that Alipay was actively looking for further areas of expansion across the world "where we see a Chinese footprint."

Alipay has had its eyes on markets further afield than the Middle Kingdom for a while, aggressively acquiring and investing overseas. Alibaba's affiliate Ant Financial, behind the Alipay app, merged with Singapore-based payments platform helloPay in April this year and made a $1.2 billion bid for U.S. firm Moneygram that same month. Earlier in March, the Chinese behemoth invested $177 million in Paytm, India's biggest mobile commerce platform.

Alipay launched in Europe in 2016. Liu told CNBC that roughly 10,000 merchants in Europe accept Alipay, and this figure balloons to 120,000 worldwide.

Alipay's rationale behind its first foray into Africa was the large potential market of Chinese tourists. Liu said that 135 million travel internationally every year.

In May, CNBC exclusively reported that Ant Financial was to close a $3.5 billion dollar-denominated debt round to fund international expansion. This was $1 billion more than initially expected by the company.

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