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How informal traders can drive cashless payments

Despite the majority of adult South Africans owning bank accounts, more than half of the total value of all consumer transactions in the country are still conducted in cash, says MARK ELLIOTT, Division President of Mastercard Southern Africa.

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This suggests that being formally banked may not be enough of an incentive for consumers to move away from cash. Accelerating the pace of migration from cash to digital and card payments must be a priority for catalysing economic growth.

As long as people are trapped in a cash economy, they are locked out of many economic opportunities in the financial mainstream. These consumers represent some of South Africa’s most financially vulnerable people, and yet they are disproportionately exposed to the risks and costs of cash, including high transaction fees, the risk of theft, and the inconvenience of transporting and handling physical money.

Addressing this challenge will take a concerted effort from payments companies, telcos, merchants, banks, governments, regulators, fintech companies and other stakeholders. Over the past few years, we have seen a range of compelling digital payments solutions coming to market – including simple mobile payments – yet many of those initiatives lack the scale to make a real difference.

More cashless payments for the informal sector

We believe the really exciting opportunity lies at the intersection between the informal small and micro-businesses that form the backbone of our economy and the tech-savvy youth. The small business and informal sector accounts for turnover of around R75 billion annually in South Africa alone, which we cannot ignore if the goal is to increase the number of cashless transactions.

Consumers, particularly those who have grown up with mobile phones, are eager to pay using digital channels. In South Africa, 73 percent of banked consumers are ready to pay with their mobile phones, according to the Mastercard Impact of Innovation study. Yet many of the places where people live and work – the spaza store, the hair salon on the corner, the neighbourhood tavern – are not enabled for acceptance of mobile and card payments.

Mastercard research shows that around 90 percent of South Africa’s informal enterprises run as cash-only businesses, even though 51 percent report they have encountered strong customer interest in paying by card. The few that have introduced card and digital payments have reaped the rewards. Merchants that introduced card acceptance reported an average increase in turnover of 50 percent, and those that introduced mobile payment acceptance via Quick Response (QR) codes saw their revenues climb by 10 percent.

Overcoming barriers to adoption

What then are the barriers to adoption of these solutions? Even though many informal enterprises see the ability to accept card payments as a step to increasing revenue, lack of access to formal banking tools and understanding of available payment options limits their opportunity for growth. These businesses also cite the perceived cost of accepting mobile and digital payments as barriers to acceptance, with many unaware of low-cost alternatives to traditional point of sale solutions.

To change this picture, payments companies should help merchants take advantage of high mobile penetration rates by offering them simple solutions to accept mobile-friendly card and digital payments.

Mastercard offers simple solutions designed to help small businesses and entrepreneurs accept digital payments through technologies like Masterpass and in partnership with innovators like iKhokha and Spazapp. Such solutions remove cost and complexity barriers from payments acceptance, including high monthly rentals and transaction costs, and the need for dedicated card payment terminals. All any merchant needs to accept and process payments is a low-cost terminal or an Android or iOS device.

We have also identified the need to educate consumers and merchants about the true cost and danger of cash to join the dots between small merchants and customers who are eager to pay using their mobile devices or cards. However, no single player, sector or government can solve these challenges on its own.

A key element of our strategy is to work closely with fintech innovators and financial services companies to introduce affordable payment and financial inclusion solutions for merchants and consumers that can solve their everyday challenges. We must build bridges between all major mobile and digital payments services in the market to deliver the seamless, on-demand experience consumers expect at every payment point. It is only through collaboration that we can deliver scalable, secure, interoperable and convenient payment systems that will bring us closer to a cashless world.

Bridging the divide between South Africa’s cash-based economy and the digital future will demand a combination of local know-how with global scale, insights and best practices. We have a rare and urgent opportunity to use today’s mobile technology to leapfrog old payment practices, in much the same way as the continent leapfrogged fixed-line infrastructure and went straight to mobile.

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Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services

A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.

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What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.

Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.

F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.

“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”

More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**

“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”

F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.

A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.

Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”

However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.

“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”

*Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/
**Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/30/18204186/facebook-q4-2018-earnings-user-growth-revenue-increase-privacy-scandals
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)

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WhatsApp comes to KaiOS

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By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.

“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”

WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure. 

WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”

KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online. 

WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.

In Africa, the KaiOS-powered MTN Smart and Orange Sanza are currently available in 22 countries, offering 256MB RAM and 3G connectivity.

KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.

* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS

* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS

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