Hot on the heels of reports that Vodacom is poised to tie up with Nedbank to launch Vodafone’s M-Pesa mobile phone payments system in SA, Standard Bank has said it’s signed a deal with retail group Spar to offer a similar product.
The announcement means Standard Bank has beaten its rival to market with a solution.
The new “person-to-person money transfer system”, to be launched on Friday, will allow Spar customers to send money to anyone in SA with a cellphone.
The new service, called Instant Money, will eventually be available at all 850 Spar outlets countrywide, though the initial roll-out will cover only the Eastern Cape.
Spar Guild chairman Roelf Venter says initiatives like Instant Money could breathe new life into the economies of remote areas in SA.
“Like many developing countries, SA has countless breadwinners who live and work in urban economic hubs, but have extended families back home in poorer rural areas. We see a high demand for smart banking services that will make sending money back home simple and cheap,” says Venter.
Standard Bank SA CEO Sim Tshabalala (pictured), who is heading up the Instant Money roll-out, says the new service means people no longer have to risk giving an envelope full of cash to a middleman, such as a friend or a taxi driver, and asking them to deliver it to a recipient in a remote area.
“It’s a way for people who don’t have a bank account to gain access to financial services,” says Tshabalala.
“Financial services are not always available in rural areas, mainly because of the expense of rolling out banks and services in less affluent places,” he says. “This has meant that most people in rural areas operate on a cash basis.”
Standard Bank estimates that 35m South Africans have a cellphone, while only 11m have a bank account.
Analyst house Gartner predicts money transfers and payment systems using mobile phones will be among the 10 most important mobile applications by 2012 — ahead of location-based services, search and browsing.
Standard Bank’s deal with Spar comes just weeks after the UK’s Vodafone announced that it would introduce its M-Pesa mobile payments system in SA. M-Pesa has proved wildly popular in Kenya.
Sunday Times Business Times columnist Stuart Theobald wrote at the weekend that Vodacom is likely to launch M-Pesa in partnership with Nedbank. No date has been set yet for the product’s launch. — Staff reporter, TechCentral