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Spazapp and Mastercard take small traders mobile

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Mastercard is collaborating with Spazapp, to bring secure mobile payments to thousands of informal traders and convenience stores, better known as spaza shops, in South Africa.

By combining their expertise and reach, the companies intend to unlock economic growth by helping informal micro-businesses connect to formal markets and digital payment systems.

The informal retail sector boasts an impressive R46 billion in annual sales a year with more than nine million households regularly shopping at these stores. While these shops represent the economic backbone of many local communities, their true potential remains untapped as they do not have the tools necessary to accept electronic payments and run their businesses effectively.

Through this partnership, Mastercard has integrated its digital global payment service Masterpass into Spazapp – a free, money-saving android application that connects a community of informal traders directly to big FMCG brands including Unilever and Tiger Brands. Using Spazapp, traders can order a wide variety of products at competitive prices – which they would be unable to access without the collective bargaining power that the Spazapp platform offers – and use Masterpass to digitally pay for stock and accept cashless payments from their customers with their mobile phones.

“Too many informal micro-retailers are stuck, like their customers, in a cash economy that doesn’t work for them,” says Mark Elliott, division president for Mastercard, Southern Africa. “By matching up Spazapp’s extensive supplier and distribution network with digital payment and acceptance solutions from Mastercard, we are able to help these shop owners build a better future and serve their customers who are themselves demanding safer, and more convenient ways to pay.”

By digitizing the entire value chain, the 4,500 micro-businesses already using Spazapp’s buying app can generate significant savings on stock procurement. Traders no longer need to close their stores to buy stock, miss out on bulk buying savings because of cashflow constraints or have to worry about the security risks and high costs of cash.
“Our goal is to uplift last mile traders and disadvantaged communities by simplifying the buying process for small, informal traders through competitive pricing and collective bargaining power,” says Tim Strang, CEO of Spazapp. “Masterpass has the scale, efficiency and convenience we need to offer merchants a truly accessible, low-risk and affordable way to accept electronic payments from their customers and pay their suppliers.”

For spaza owners, Masterpass provides a more affordable alternative to traditional Point of Sale devices, allowing them to offer a convenient digital payment option to their customers – the majority of whom are banked and are ready to use mobile payments.

How it works
Spaza customers can download Masterpass from the iOS or Android app store, register, and load their credit, debit or cheque cards from any bank into the digital wallet. To pay for their goods, they simply open the Masterpass app on their mobile device, and scan the unique QR code that is generated on the Spazapp retailer’s smartphone. After shoppers enter their bank PIN number or 3DSecure code and CVV/CVC number on their own device, the transaction is complete.

Similarly, spaza shop owners use their Masterpass app to scan a QR code printed on the supplier’s invoice, to pay for their stock on delivery at their store. Payment card information – including card details from Mastercard and other payment networks – is only captured once eliminating the hassle of repeatedly entering these details each time they want to pay their bill.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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