Standard Bank has introduced a new person-to-person money system that means South Africans can do a lot more than just pick up a bag of groceries at their local Spar. They can also send money to any friends and family in South Africa who own a cellphone.
The new service, Instant Money, is provided by Standard Bank and will use Spar's 850 stores to reach communities in some of the most remote parts of the country. The money is sent and received at Spar outlets, using a cellphone to transfer information. Instant Money will initially be available from Spar stores in the Eastern Cape.
Sim Tshabalala, Chief Executive, Standard Bank South Africa, says the new service means people no longer have to take the risk of giving an envelope full of cash to a middleman - like a friend or a taxi driver - and telling them where to deliver it.
"It's a way for users who don't have a bank account to get access to financial services," he says.
"Financial services are largely limited to urban areas at the moment, mainly because of the expense of rolling out banks and services in less affluent areas. What this means is that most people in rural areas operate on a cash basis."
Instant Money has been developed in such a way that the service can be accessed on even the simplest mobile phone models and across networks
Leading market research organisation Gartner believes money transfers and payments over mobile phones will be among the top 10 most important mobile applications by 2012 - ahead of location-based services, search and browsing. Money transfers are already popular in a number of developing countries, and will continue to attract more users, according to Gartner's Top 10 Consumer Mobile Applications for 2012.
Tshabalala says: "With Instant Money, people can now transact and send money without the need for a bank account. It is estimated that some 35-million people have a cell phone, while only 11-million have a bank account."
Mobile money transfers not only offer a safer, more reliable way to send cash, but could breathe new life into the economies of remote areas.
Like many developing countries, South Africa has countless breadwinners who live and work in urban economic hubs, but have extended families back home in poorer rural areas. There is a high demand for smart banking services that will make sending money back home simpler and less costly.
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