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Cash is king in SA – but digital payments are coming for the throne

By , COO of Ukheshe Technologies.
South Africa , 10 Aug 2021
Anton van der Merwe, the recently-appointed COO of Ukheshe Technologies.
Anton van der Merwe, the recently-appointed COO of Ukheshe Technologies.

Even with a high banked population and a multitude of electronic payment options available, the average South African still use cash for daily purchases and payments with an estimated 78-80% of transactions being in cash.

For these reasons alone, the opportunities for digital payments are set to boom.

New technologies are expected to change the local landscape as emerging trends accelerate and traditional financial services providers recognise the value in partnering with Fintechs to deliver solutions quickly and efficiently.

Electronic payments were first introduced in SA around 40 years ago, yet today, there are still many ecosystems such as the taxi environment, rural areas and townships that are cash heavy.

That means the potential in the digital space is immense – reducing the use of cash by just 8%, for example, and growing digital transactions by that same number, means a shift of 10-15 billion transactions annually.

Looking at the underpenetrated target markets we can already see how technology can make further significant differences. For example, if South Africa’s 16 million daily transport commuters were able to pay by scanning a QR code instead of counting out cash – with the transaction reflected in their accounts in real time. Not only would this simplify the process, but it would also represent billions in value for the institutions enabling transactions.

As part of its National Payment System Framework and Strategy – Vision 2025, the South African Reserve Bank has outlined their vision for growth in financial inclusion and greater electronic payments and within the broader financial industry these efforts are gaining momentum through new industry initiatives.

Surveys show that over 70% of South Africans would want to transact on their phone, while there are an estimated 1 million of township merchants that could be included into the digital payments ecosystem.

The country already has a very high level of banked individuals, all that’s lacking is the infrastructure to accept digital payments on a large scale. That’s where Fintech enablement partners come in.

New solutions such as real-time QR code payments and recently-launched Whatsapp payments, in partnership with banks and retailers, demonstrate how large, traditional financial institutions or any company looking for a payment solution, can keep up with the rapidly changing needs of consumers.

Such partnerships combine the agility of smaller Fintech firms with the reach and trust of traditional financial institutions, bringing customer-centric solutions to market with greater speed and ease.

Payments that eliminate the inefficiencies and hidden safety costs associated with cash payments are already here, with their implementation just around the corner – and a more inclusive society along with it.

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