Study discovers that only one in every 10 South Africans use cellphones for banking

DIAL UP: South Africa's unbanked stand ot benefit from cellphone banking technology. Pic. Jeremy Glyn © ST.
DIAL UP: South Africa's unbanked stand ot benefit from cellphone banking technology. Pic. Jeremy Glyn © ST.

Thomas McLachlan

Thomas McLachlan

Rural areas have the lowest penetration when it comes to cellphone banking, despite this method of transacting having the potential to bank the millions of unbanked South Africans, said a World Wide Worx survey released yesterday.

The study found that more than one in 10 South Africans with bank accounts have used their cellphones for banking.

"This is about a million people in total," said Arthur Goldstuck, the report's author.

Cellphone banking company Wizzit chief executive Brian Richardson said this type of banking held huge potential because more than 30million people had cellphones in the country.

"The traditional 'bricks and mortar' approach to banking just isn't going to help attract lower-income customers," said Richardson.

He said that if just a small percentage of those using mattresses as a means of storing their funds could be brought into the banking fold, the effect on the economy would be enormous.

"At any one time there is about R12billion kept under mattresses across the country," he said.

Goldstuck said that though most of the country's cellphone banking users came from urban areas, the highest number of transactions occurred in deep rural areas such as small villages. He said the reason for this was because of the location of banks in relation to rural customers.

"If one has to take a taxi to get to their bank, it takes time and money from their lives," said Goldstuck.

He said that banks needed to include more direct marketing strategies and speak to customers one-on-one, instead of relying on their print and electronic media campaigns.

This would help educate customers and make them feel more confident to make their first transaction.

Nearly a quarter of the one million people with both cellphones and bank accounts felt that nothing would convince them to use cellphone banking for purchases, according to the study.

The difficulty of using cellphone banking and security were the two main reasons given for not using the technology.

"This is a factor of awareness and education," said Len Pienaar, chief executive of FNB Mobile and Transact Solutions.

"Though many users do not yet feel comfortable with transactions, it is clear that there is a great need for information about their accounts and the purchases of prepaid products, and a growing need for paying accounts without having to go to a bank," he said.