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Digital payments making a massive impact

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A new UN study has revealed that Alipay and WeChat Pay enabled US$2.9 trillion in Chinese digital payments in 2016, representing a 20-fold increase in the past four years.

The data shows that digital payments, using existing platforms and networks, provide access to a wider range of digital financial services, expanding financial inclusion and economic opportunity throughout China and neighboring countries.

The new report by the UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance, Social Networks, E-Commerce Platforms and the Growth of Digital Payment Ecosystems in China – What It Means for Other Countries, contains key lessons to help other countries include more people in the economy by transitioning from cash to digital payments. This shift could increase GDP across developing economies by 6 percent by 2025, adding US$3.7 trillion and 95 million jobs, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.

“Social networks and e-commerce platforms are growing in every economy, whether large or small,” says Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director at the Better Than Cash Alliance. “In China, digital payments are thriving from these channels, bringing millions of people into the economy. This matters because we know that when people – especially women – gain access to financial services, they are able to save, build assets, weather financial shocks, and have a better chance to improve their lives.” 

“Widening access to financial services has always been at the heart of Ant Financial’s mission and we are proud to 

have empowered more people to save, invest and gain access to capital. There is a quiet revolution underway and we know, firsthand, that our services are making a real difference to hundreds of millions of consumers. But, as this groundbreaking UN report highlights, this revolution is only just beginning. We see tremendous potential 

to bring many more people into the financial system, in China and markets around the world,” says Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial Services Group, which operates Alipay.

Key findings from the report:

·       More people have opportunities to save and invest. Platforms such as Alibaba’s Yu’e bao make investing money into diverse sets of financial products more accessible for low-income populations. These products allows them to invest the money left on digital accounts, leading incrementally to long-term savings. From 2013 to 2016, Yu’e bao has grown to manage US$117 billion and is now serving over 152 million customers.

·       Digital finance helps dramatically increase access to capital for small merchants. As of September 2016, a total of RMB 740 billion (US$107.3 billion) had been lent on the Alipay platform to over 4.11 million small and micro enterprises and entrepreneurs.

·       Big data generated through these platforms helps to build credit-scoring history and boost access to credit, particularly for low-income financially-excluded populations. For example, Sesame Credit offers an alternative creditworthiness assessment by examining the credit history, financial behavior, contractual capacity, identity, and social networks of users.

The study also found both Alipay and WeChat are expanding beyond China and investing in major fintech and payments providers. They are joined by other major communication platforms, utilizing existing social networks and e-commerce platforms to drive digital payments and financial inclusion. The report found opportunities especially strong in countries with a high smartphone uptake and collaboration between the private and public sectors:

·       In South Africa, 78 percent of all internet traffic takes place over mobile channels – one of the highest rates in the world. However, despite the continued growth of adoption rates, only 15 percent of South Africans reported making a purchase on a mobile phone in the preceding month when surveyed in 2016.

·       In India, both Ant Financial and Tencent have bought into the Indian mobile payments market, which is enjoying rapid growth under new regulation. Ant Financial and Alibaba have  invested up to $900 million in PayTM, as well as sharing staff and technical expertise. The result: PayTM has grown from 5 million to around 200 million users in just the last few years.

·       Indonesia was the fastest-growing m-commerce market in the world in 2016, expanding 155 percent from January 2016 to January 2017. Some of this growth may be due to the release in 2015 of BBM Pay’s Instant Mobile Payments. The popular BBM chat app has over 55 million users in Indonesia and continues to develop.

·       In South America, markets have the infrastructure necessary to build payment ecosystems similar to those seen in China. Fifty-nine percent of the South American population uses social media, and 52 percent connect with social media over their mobile phone. Yet the digital payments space remains fractured, and no payments provider has linked their service to these platforms in a significant way, or vice versa.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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