PAYPAL, the global Internet micropayment system that was co-founded by a Pretoria schoolboy, was officially launched in South Africa yesterday in an exclusive deal with First National Bank.

South Africans have been able to open PayPal accounts and pay in using a credit card, but had not received money until now. The tie-up is a coup for FNB and the full range of PayPal services will only be available to FNB online banking customers.

PayPal is the gold standard of online payments, initially allowing small transactions to be made for credit card purchases but is now widely used on the Internet. It operates in 190 markets and has more than 81million active accounts and was co-founded by a South African born Elon Musk before it was sold to eBay.

FNB chief executive Michael Jordaan said: "We're really excited by what it means to our customers. The exclusive top-up and withdrawal service with PayPal allows South Africans to make payments and receive money internationally without sharing their financial or personal information.

"We are especially pleased to make this announcement on the eve of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, as South Africans will be able to join the global eCommerce marketplace."

FNB will charge 1,5percent on top of PayPal's fees, and all transactions will be in US dollars. FNB will convert the currency into rands when it is transferred into its customers' bank accounts.

Asked if FNB plans to bring PayPal to its mobile banking customers, Jordaan said: "We're looking at a range of functionality to be launched next. It could be that mobile banking is the next thing that we want to do."

Head of PayPal's business in Israel and our local lad Oded Zehavi said both firms had a similar focus on innovation and this partnership would succeed on those grounds.