more do banking

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

More than 60percent of South African adults now have bank accounts, a swing from two years ago when the country had an "unbanked" majority of 64percent.

Much of this growth comes from government requiring welfare recipients to open bank accounts to receive electronically deposited child support and other social grants.

Mzansi, a basic service launched by banks in 2004 to meet their Financial Services Charter obligations, has grown to 16percent of all bank accounts.

The latest FinScope survey, done annually by non-governmental organisation FinMark Trust, found that 19million adults were banked out of a total population of 31,6million over 16 years old.

FinMark found 67percent of Mzansi account holders are first-time bank customers, 27percent converted their existing current accounts but fewer than 10percent of low-income earners were advised by their bank to convert to get Mzansi's cheaper rates.

The poll found 72percent of Mzansi's target market have heard of the product.

As expected, the more people earn, the more likely they are to have a bank account.

The study found that people generally do not find operating a bank account worthwhile before they earn more than R1000 a month.

But interestingly, six percent of adult South Africans in the top living standards measure bands do not have bank accounts.

Cellphones are more popular than bank accounts, with 66 percent or 21million adults paying for a mobile number.

Only 4percent of these use their cellphones for banking, and these tend to be wealthier individuals.

FinMark found that cellphone penetration in lower income groups has increased from 40percent to 54percent two years ago, making mobile banking the most promising channel to expand the country's banked population.