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South Africa rejigs its digital payments ecosystem to increase financial inclusion

South Africa rejigs its digital payments ecosystem to increase financial inclusion
 

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has published a national digital payments roadmap which proposes several novelties including the adoption of two-factor authentication for digital payments security and a digital KYC registry to streamline and digitize the process of verifying customer identities for financial transactions.

According to the roadmap titled “Digital payments roadmap: Towards inclusive, accessible, effective and sustainable digital payments in South Africa,” the novelties which align with the country’s 2035 Vision of its National Payment System Framework and Strategy, will improve the digital and financial inclusion experience for the nation and move it closer towards a cashless economy.

A news release announcing the publication of the roadmap says it seeks to ensure the “promotion of competition and innovation, cost-effectiveness, interoperability and financial inclusion.”

Apart from the SARB and National Treasury, other stakeholders involved in the implementation of the roadmap are financial industry regulatory authorities, government departments, agencies and municipalities, the payments industry, fintechs, mobile money operators and end users.

The roadmap acknowledges that while South Africa already has an advanced banking system and a high level of financial inclusion powered by actions designed to make digital payments and other financial services more seamless, safer, convenient, affordable and faster, there are still some barriers preventing the fast adoption of digital payment channels which means a persistent over-reliance on cash. Over 94 percent of adult South Africans are said to be financially included, with about 82 percent of them known to own at least one bank account.

Barriers which hamper the betterment of these figures are what this roadmap intends to fix, the news release indicates. It therefore proposes a raft of measures through which some of these obstacles can be removed in order to “increase digital payments accessibility and usability, and unlock the potential of digital payments to grow economic activity and trade, while uplifting the lives of ordinary South Africans.”

The roadmap explains its purpose objectives and scope, South Africa’s digital payments system, obstacles that stand on the way of achieving inclusive, accessible, effective and sustainable digital payments in South Africa, and how to facilitate the path towards achieving these goals.

It hopes to increase financial inclusion through high-level action plans which include the expansion of accessibility to the national payment system (NPS) to fintechs and non-banks; the provision of fast, low-cost innovative payment products and services, and the modernization of the country’s payment infrastructure.

The roadmap, among other things, also underlines the necessity of “embracing and leveraging new and emerging payment methods, technologies and platforms such as mobile money, e-money, central bank digital currencies, application programming interfaces, artificial intelligence, regulatory technology and supervisory technology to promote more inclusive, efficient, effective, safer and sustainable digital payments in SA.”

Last year, Visa and MasterCard said they were rolling out new authentication frameworks in South Africa to facilitate merchant payments as part of a broader move towards a more efficient digital payments ecosystem.

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