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Contactless payment cards roll out across Africa

Standard Bank Group has announced it is rolling out contactless payment cards across 15 African countries. It is currently enabling contactless payment capability in, among other, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, eSwatini, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“The pandemic has created heightened concern among consumers on cash usage with many increasingly recognising contactless as a safer, cleaner, and faster way to pay, especially as they seek out ways to quickly get in and out of stores without touching terminals or handing over their card,” says Israel Skosana, head of pan-Africa card issuing at Standard Bank.

“The introduction of this payment method will improve customer convenience, with shorter transaction times and eliminates the need to withdraw or handle cash. Security is also enhanced as a customer keeps their card with them rather than handing it to someone else.”

Cash still accounts for most payments in many of the African countries. Yet, as well as being inefficient to process and expensive to manage, cash is inherently insecure, and its use fuels a shadow economy. The displacement of cash is therefore a strategic objective for many governments, banks, payment providers and, increasingly, merchants. Contactless represents a viable cash displacement tool.

In many countries around the world, the use of contactless payments has quickly become deeply embedded into everyday payment habits. The perceptions around convenience and safety have spurred the preference for contactless cards.

“It is critical for us to ensure that our customers can access the most convenient payment options to suit their lifestyle as they continue to navigate the current challenges brought about by Covid-19,” says Skosana.

The roll-out includes upgrading merchant terminals to accept contactless payments. This comes in response to increasing demand from consumers and merchants alike.

Prior to the pandemic, contactless payments were already emerging and growing across African. However, Covid-19 has encouraged consumers to further embrace the technology.

“As many countries in Africa imposed necessary restrictions on social distancing, the act of running to the store to buy everyday supplies changed dramatically. This shift in consumer behaviour is particularly clear at till checkout points, with customers and merchants expressing a desire cleanliness and safety at the point of sale.”

The benefits of contactless technology extend well beyond health and safety. The use of contactless opens the door to payments in many other forms such as smartphones and wearables. The same underlying technology is used to process transactions, and the potential for mobile and wearable-enabled payments is significant.

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