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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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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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