South Africa is Rapidly Digitizing, So Are Its Payment Methods
Selling directly to consumers and accepting B2B payments in South Africa requires a deep understanding of South African’s payment methods. In the Rainbow Nation, payment methods are as diverse as the population. A growing tech-savvy consumer base makes South Africa a lucrative market for merchants that understand local ecommerce trends and expectations.
- 89% of the adult population owns a cell phone, one of the largest figures on the continent (Pew Research Center).
- 30% of users send and receive payments on their cell phones (Pew Research Center).
- The largest segment of ecommerce is fashion, representing 31% of revenue, followed by toys/hobby (27%) and electronics/media (18%) (eCommerceDB).
- The ecommerce market is projected to grow by 10% annually over the next four years (eCommerceDB).
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Emerging South African Payment Trends
Credit cards remain the top payment method in South Africa, but this is changing. A number of other payment options such as ewallets are becoming more important in the market. Businesses operating in South Africa need to adopt a cards+ strategy for accepting payments.
These Are the South Africa Payment Methods Merchants Need to Offer:
While mobile tends to be favored, Visa has gained traction in recent years and is the most popular credit card. In fact, Visa has a 48.6% share of all credit card transactions in South Africa (The Paypers). Credit cards comprise 41% of the market, down from 45% four years ago (Statista; Digital Marketing Community).
In addition to traditional credit cards, many store cards have been issued by the nation’s large retailers such as Edcon, Foschini, and Truworths. However, the number of store cards issued is declining, a sign of a shifting preference in payment methods.
11% of online transactions in 2020 were made with cash (Statista). Accepting cash voucher payment is critical for online merchants who wish to reach the 25% of adults in South Africa who don’t have a bank account. (Africa Outlook).
Digital wallets are growing quickly as a payment method in South Africa, currently comprising 17% of ecommerce transactions (Statista). One of the ewallets quickly gaining in popularity is M-PESA, derived from the Swahili word for money and currently the largest fintech platform in Africa. M-PESA allows users without bank accounts to transfer money and make payments using their cell phones. It has rapidly become one of the most trusted names in the region (The Paypers).
Bank transfers have remained stable at 20% of the ecommerce market over the past four years (Statista; Digital Marketing Community) and are likely to maintain and even grow in market share as cash reliance declines and bank account adoption grows.
A Diverse Payments Ecosystem Creates Opportunities for Merchants Who Can Meet Customers’ Expectations for Localized, Convenient Checkout Experiences
With most of South Africa’s smartphone users under the age of 35, trends towards digital payment methods such as ewallets and bank transfers are expected to continue to increase going forward. Meanwhile, supporting a wide variety of South Africa payment methods will increase conversions and introduce new customers to the international marketplace.
Africa Outlook. “South Africa’s banked population reaches 75%” https://www.africaoutlookmag.com/industry-insights/article/367-south-africas-banked-population-reaches-75
Brand South Africa. “South Africa’s economy: Key sectors” https://www.brandsouthafrica.com/investments-immigration/economynews/south-africa-economy-key-sectors
Digital Marketing Community. “Credit cards are the most used online payment method by South African online shoppers at a rate of 45%.” https://www.digitalmarketingcommunity.com/indicators/online-payment-methods-south-africa-2017/
eCommerceDB. “The eCommerce market in South Africa.” https://ecommercedb.com/en/markets/za/all
Pew Research Center. “Cell Phones in Africa: Communication lifeline.” https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2015/04/15/cell-phones-in-africa-communication-lifeline/
Statista. “Most common payment methods of online shoppers in South Africa as of January 2020.”