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New mobile payment system for SA
Harare – Townships and spaza shops in South Africa have access to a new mobile payment system, days after Vodacom announced that it’s shutting down its M-Pesa business.

Africa-focused cashless financial platform MobiCash and cellphone payments company Boloro have launched a mobile money system targeted at the informal township and communal market.

Mobile money, though, has not taken off in South Africa as much as it has in the rest of Africa, according to experts. Vodacom had introduced M-Pesa in South Africa in 2010 but it canned the product in SA this week as only 70 000 customers took up the service.

Other countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria have largely switched on to mobile money and other digital payments platforms and this has boosted financial inclusion. But executives from MobiCash and Boloro are hopeful that the latest platform, aimed for the largely informal township and communal market in South Africa, could yield a breakthrough in a market that has largely lagged behind.

Patrick Ngabonziza, chairman of MobiCash, said on Friday that the MobiCash platform, in partnership with Boloro, would bring enhanced access to banking services and electronic payments to the SA township population.

"We are proud to collaborate with our partners to bring a holistic ecosystem that not only has the potential to boost small business but also has the potential to impact entire communities as we have seen in our home country Rwanda," said Ngabonziza Under the partnership between the two companies, small-scale retail businesses in SA townships will now be able to “offer secure, consumer friendly, handset agnostic, merchant initiated payments using MobiCash”.

The platform is securitised by “multi-factor biometric authentication together with Boloro's secure pin authentication that uses network initiated USSD messaging”.

The new platform has already found a ready taker in Big Save, a South African retail chain operator in the townships, which is now rolling out MobiCash and Boloro across its thousands of spaza community members.

"Our challenge has always been cash replacement in a cost-effective way,” said Johnny Jardim, financial director at the Big Save Group. There are plans to expand the platform to encompass other acceptance such as conveniently paying for taxi fares and secure online payments, seen as boosting the South African township and urban “payments ecosystem even faster”. Ann Camarillo, chief executive officer of the New York City based Boloro Global group said the partnership was geared “democratise financial access for disenfranchised communities, offer secure payments and resolve the pain-points associated with carrying cash".