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Nedbank opens SA’s first solar cashless bank branch

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Nedbank has launched South Africa’s first solar bank branch in Mncwasa, 60 km from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

In what is a first-to-market in the financial sector, the Nedbank solar-powered branch is aimed at providing convenient banking solutions to a community without banking facilities. It is providing the service through SolarTurtle, a mobile service provider owned by members of the Mncwasa community.

Opening the Mncwasa branch was also a result of a partnership with the Mbhashe Local Municipality, represented by Executive Mayor, Councillor Samkelo Janda, who spoke at the launch. More than 69% of the Mncwasa community is economically inactive and depends on child support grants, with employment concentrated among teachers and small-scale entrepreneurs.

The solar branch is situated in a rural area and will enable community members to access financial services such as cashless banking, and make use of digital-payment solutions through Masterpass, in partnership with Mastercard.

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Masterpass is an innovative digital-payment app in the form of a digital wallet that enables faster and safer transactions, as it saves client payment information so that they can make online purchases at the press of a button. The app can be downloaded from the Apple, Android, Blackberry and Windows app stores.

“This solar Nedbank branch will offer cutting edge e-banking technology to an area where banks normally don’t go,” says James van der Walt, CEO of SolarTurtle. “This will allow rural clients to open accounts, receive money from their relatives and even take personal loans so they can buy solar-power solutions for their own homes. All this is done cash-free through a phone, making it safe and secure.”

Currently, there is no local banking facility in the community, and Nedbank says it is committed to uplifting communities by offering facilities for local entrepreneurs to transact safely and conveniently.

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“As money experts who do good, Nedbank is committed to making banking accessible to all the communities in which we operate,” says Eastern Cape Provincial General Manager Lonwabo Daniels. “We understand the role that banking services plays in stimulating economic activity and thereby developing communities. It is for this reason that we continue to develop innovative products and services such as the solar-powered branch, which is designed to overcome infrastructure constraints while enabling individuals, families and businesses to realise their goals and full potential,

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Nedbank and we envisage it being a pilot for a potential penetration strategy into Africa.”

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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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