When the 2021 riots in KwaZulu-Natal sparked a wave of looting that caused an estimated R25 billion knock to the economy, experts agreed that it was partly fuelled by growing poverty and inequality. Shortly thereafter, the World Bank confirmed this when it gave South Africa the dubious distinction of being the most unequal country in the world. That’s why financial inclusion is so crucial in South Africa – something that Scan to Pay, powered by Ukheshe, has kept front of mind since its inception.
Financial inclusion aims to increase the availability and accessibility of financial services to all individuals and businesses, especially those in marginalised or underserved communities.
Though South Africa’s banked population has increased considerably from 54% in 2011 to 84% in 2021 (globally, these numbers are 51% and 76% respectively), 9 out of 10 transactions are still made in cash. This means that many are still missing out on the benefits of savings accounts, loans, and insurance products – just one reason inclusion is severely skewed towards households with a higher income. Barriers to accessing traditional banking services and critical financial products include geographical distance, lack of documentation, language barriers, and cultural factors.
But the situation is not at all hopeless. PwC’s Payments 2025 & Beyond report says global cashless payment volumes are set to almost double from 2020 to 2025, and triple by 2030.
Including the unbanked or underbanked and increasing competition amongst financial services providers will be critical to the financial inclusion and economic growth the country needs. According to the PwC report, this shift will be driven by mobile devices and access to affordable, convenient payment mechanisms.
That’s why payment ecosystems such as Scan to Pay can empower the unbanked and make a true difference to people’s lives and futures. Using a simple QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone or any mobile device with a camera, consumers don’t even need a bank card to pay. For merchants, on the other hand, one of the biggest benefits is that there’s no need to buy expensive physical point of sale (POS) hardware and receiving payments via QR codes usually has lower transaction fees than traditional card-based payment systems. It can be used to transact face-to-face and online and can also fit seamlessly into existing bank and mobile network operator environments.
Scan to Pay is now the largest QR ecosystem in South Africa - serving more than six acquirers, 94 payment service providers, 14 banks and fintechs, three mobile network operators and more than 600,000 merchants. Scan to Pay services 3 million direct app downloads and is included in 16 million banking apps.
And, as QR codes grow in popularity, their versatility has allowed for an entire transaction network to develop in tandem. Scan to Pay vouchers, for example, can be used for a multitude of transactions, from point of sale at retailers or online shopping payments to buying airtime or paying bills. Users can now also pay with crypto in a seamless payment process akin to traditional payment methods.
Not only is it user-friendly, contactless, and convenient, but it employs robust security measures to instil confidence in users who may have been hesitant to engage in digital payments due to security concerns.
This ease of setup and use has made QR, and Scan to Pay, especially attractive in regions where traditional banking infrastructure might be less pervasive but mobile penetration is high. With a low barrier to entry, QR is one of the best methods of transacting in developing countries, able to deliver mobile financial services at a much larger scale, particularly to low-income customers - making it a powerful tool for financial inclusion.
As part of the drive towards a cashless future, Scan to Pay is set and ready to form an integral part of the road to inclusivity – and a more equal country.